Belfast Telegraph

Balmoral Show may add extra day from next year

By Chris McCullough

Northern Ireland's biggest farm show could be extended by an extra day at its former Maze Prison site.

This year's Balmoral Show takes place from May 11 to 13 at Balmoral Park close to Lisburn - but the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS) is currently debating whether to extend next year's event to four days.

Around 90,000 people visited the show in 2015, a figure that could be increased substantially if a Saturday was added to the normal Wednesday-to-Friday running schedule.

But it's a decision the society must make in consultation with trade exhibitors.

The society's chief executive Colin McDonald said the decision will be made before the end of March but stressed it won't affect this year's event. According to the RUAS, its show date committee must come forward with its recommendations by the end of March.

However, the final decision on whether to extend or not, will be made by the council in April.

RUAS chief executive Colin McDonald would like to see the show extended but insisted such an extension would need be given the nod by trade and livestock exhibitors. He said: "There is a danger you might incur a fourth day of costs and spread your income over three days which wouldn't be too clever.

"We have to think, 'Is there a market that would come if we were open?'

"I think we would have to make provisions to make sure we weren't penalising the trade and livestock exhibitors because if it wasn't for them there wouldn't be a show." According to RUAS finance director Theresa Morrissey, the new Eikon Exhibition Centre at Balmoral Park is providing good business for the society.

Ms Morrissey explained: "Everything's moving very positively since the show moved out to Balmoral Park.

"The ability to attract trade exhibitors and sponsors has increased and the number of people who come to the show has been sustained. "We are at really high levels; moving the Eikon out there has really helped us look at new commercial opportunities to bring events across from England that would not have been to Northern Ireland before and the location seems to work for the organisers so far."

The finance director also confirmed visitor numbers to Balmoral Show reached more than 90,000 in 2015.

Belfast Telegraph