The first show staged at Balmoral from June 17-19 in 1896, was a memorable one because of the new venue and the fact it had extended to three days.
Prize money increased to nearly £1,000 and the entries were considerably more than of any other show previously held by the North East Agricultural Association. The new Balmoral was its 41st organised event.
The show had outgrown its previous grounds at the Corporation markets in the centre of Belfast. However earlier, there had been a three day show during 1872 in Ormeau Park, in association with the Royal Agricultural Society of Ireland.
The entry list at the first Balmoral Show in 1896 totalled 1,391 which was nearly three times that of the first North East Agricultural Association of Ireland Show in 1855.
Balmoral Show enjoyed a successful beginning and despite the challenges associated with a fall in world agricultural prices and recession following the First World War, it survived and expanded.
Significant development took place at the showgrounds, with the construction of the North Stand in 1920, and the erection of the Central Exhibition Hall, later to become the Balmoral Hall, in 1926.
The society’s response in the Great Depression was to create ‘work for the unemployed’ which resulted in the building of the South Stand in 1932 and construction of the iconic King’s Hall in 1934.
In the 1950s and 60s, the show’s good fortunes continued, with visitor and competitor numbers rising as agriculture remained Northern Ireland’s largest industry.
Whilst the challenges faced by Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 80s impacted on visitor numbers to some extent, the work of the RUAS and the Balmoral Show continued almost uninterrupted.
Today it is one of the best agricultural shows in the world and welcomes many famous and Royal visitors. The Queen and Prince Phillip enjoyed a visit to the Balmoral Show as part of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations in 2002.
The history of generations of Ulster families exhibiting in the livestock classes is a source of pride across Northern Ireland.
The priceless solid silver collection of RUAS trophies has generations of winners names engraved over the decades. These are exhibited in the Members Room entrance and are a centrepiece of the show’s history carrying a wealth of success stories down through the century.
Balmoral is not just a historic site for the Agricultural Industry, it will remain always a golden memory especially for those who have gained the coveted red rosette at Balmoral.
A monument to the expertise and professionalism of the rural community from Northern Ireland.