Stradbally prepares for invasion of real wellies brigade as ploughing championships site takes shape
Minister predicts it will be the biggest championships to date
Jim Stanley looks on as Lydia Turley gives a kiss to his champion heifer at the launch of the National Ploughing Championships on the site in Ratheniska, Co Laois, yesterday. Photograph: Jeff Harvey/HR Photo
It’s always an anxious time when visitors are coming but what do you do when more than 180,000 people are due to invade your farm in three weeks?
The three-day event opens on Tuesday, September 24th, on the farm of David and Shirley Carter and their children, Clive, Howard and Susan.
The family have provided 120 acres for the main exhibition area but several hundred acres are also being provided by neighbouring farms, bringing the site to more than 700 acres.
David Carter said it was something the family would remember forever. “It’s a once- in-a-lifetime experience, isn’t it?” he said. “It never crossed my mind that we could do this but then we were approached by the ploughing people last year. It’s certainly something new for me.”
His son Clive said it was fascinating to watch the site being constructed with such military precision. Work began on August 4th and more than 22 kilometres of steel roadways will be laid across the site.
“This time last year, who’d have thought we’d be preparing for the best part of 200,000 people roaming around the farm?” he wondered, shaking his head at the thought.
The surrealism of it all was highlighted by the crowd that had gathered for the photographers. Models in short skirts tottered around advertising the event’s fashion shows while a horse and yelping hounds exercised in the background and little children scooted around the site on toy tractors.
National Ploughing Association managing director Anna May McHugh even took a turn on a tractor-themed slide, to entertain the media.
The site is just a stone’s throw from the Electric Picnic site but the 35,000-strong crowd of wellie-clad revellers who flocked to the music festival will look small when the real wellie brigade descends on Stradbally.
Viewing the site yesterday, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said he believed this would be the biggest Ploughing Championships to date and said the choice of site, in the middle of the country, made perfect sense.
Ms McHugh said this would be the fifth time the championships were hosted in her home county and all the signs were good. Inquiries from people wishing to host trade stands had exceeded all previous years and she expected nearly 1,400 exhibitors would be taking stands.
Recently crowned ploughing champions John Whelan and Eamon Tracey will be defending their national titles in the ploughing classes where €18,000 will be up for grabs in prize money. Mr Whelan said winning at this year’s event would be the perfect end to a great year.
“Over the last 12 months I won in the nationals in New Ross and again in Northern Ireland in the European Ploughing Championships and then won in the World Ploughing in Canada. This year has been a dream come true.”
Visitors to this year’s event will also get the chance to see a 40-cow herd being milked by a robotic milking machine in daily demonstrations from Lely.
Other attractions will include numerous breeds of cattle and sheep, tractors and agricultural machinery as well as fashion shows, cookery demonstrations, shops and food stalls.