The Ballinasloe International October Fair and Festival has come a long way since its establishment in the Co Galway town 300 years ago.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is the enthusiasm and the vigour with which horse traders and buyers flock to the town’s green every year.
With this being the first post-pandemic fair the crowds gathered in and around the fair green, milling through the street stalls or enjoying the music by the main stage, did so with an increased fervour.
“We will never take these opportunities for granted again,” said cathaoirleach of Ballinasloe Municipal District councillor Evelyn Parsons, at Sunday’s official opening of the fair as it celebrated its 300th year milestone.
“People have come here this year from near and far, from home and abroad,” she said. “How lovely it is to meet and greet old friends and make new ones, and how precious that is. And we now know that ”
Traders gathered on Sunday afternoon with their prized horses and ponies, striking deals and haggling over prices as onlookers gathered around the perimeter fence, soaking in the excitement.
“We can see that little has changed in the manner in which horses are sold at our great fair,” said committee member, Niall Clarke.
“And, while the halfpennies and the farthings have been replaced by the euro, the fair green and the desire for quality Irish horses, cobbs and ponies, remains the same.
“The spectacle of the fair green heaving with horse and handler has no equal and we are very fortunate to host this unique event. Its legacy is known worldwide and we are extremely grateful to the many visitors that make the annual pilgrimage to Ballinalsoe for the opening weekend of the fair.”
Cathaoirleach of Galway County Council Michael ‘Moegie’ Maher was delighted with the turnout – even if many in the crowd were country music fans just itching to get their feet tapping for Portumna native, Mike Denver. He was quick to quip he would enjoy a dance with councillor Parsons after the official opening was over.
“We believe this is probably one of the best fairs and best outings that we have in the county,” he said.
Chairperson of the committee, Mal Coffrey, said not only was there probably someone from every county in Ireland at the fair but he also welcomed visitors from France, Belgium and all over the UK.
“It is their fair as well as our fair as the tradition was kept going for 300 years and that’s what we’re celebrating today. And it is undoubtedly the biggest fair in Europe, unchallenged by anybody else.”
The festival will continue until October 9th and will feature a variety of equestrian, music and heritage events over the course of the week. For the full programme, log on to ballinasloeoctoberfair.com.