Director ‘absolutely thrilled’ as crowds swell to 279,500
Next year’s venue still to be announced but it could return to Laois
Anna May McHugh, director of the National Ploughing Championships, watches the start of the Parade of Tractors on the final day of the National Ploughing Championships. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times
The National Ploughing Championships ended on a high last night, after attracting 279,500 people over three days.
The event, which was held at Ratheniska, Co Laois, for the second year in a row, saw 73,000 attendees filing through the gates yesterday.
The opening day on Tuesday attracted 82,000 people, while some 124,500 came on Wednesday. The overall attendance was 51,500 up on last year.
National Ploughing Association director Anna May McHugh said she was “absolutely thrilled” with the figures and it had been a very successful event.
The event costs almost €4 million to stage, with that figure increasing in recent years due to the need for extra trackways and more facilities to cater for the growing crowds.
Research suggests the event generates at least €36 million in spending, but this year’s figure is expected to be significantly higher due to the increase in attendance and a greater number of exhibitors.
Ms McHugh said exhibitors had told her business was extremely vibrant and sales were well ahead of targets.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny described the event as “an extraordinary occasion” after he toured the site yesterday. “It’s an expression of modern Irishness that I support very strongly,” he said.
“What struck me was that all those young people, who were doing the traffic and the arrangements, are from local GAA clubs and this is all voluntary but there’s a return for them as a club.
“So in a sense it’s an expression of the modern nature of Irish society. It’s family. It’s community. It’s children building for the future and having the opportunity to come here to what is a really brilliant occasion.”
It had originally been understood the event would move to Tullow, Co Carlow, next year but there was speculation this week it would remain in Co Laois for a third year. Ms McHugh said a decision would be announced on October 12th.
While some stands were being dismantled yesterday evening, organisers said it would be the end of next month before the site had been fully cleared.