Laois gets ready for ploughs and the stars

Champions and edible insects just some of the attractions promised for ploughing event

Models on a 1967 Nuffield tractor at Ratheniska, Co Laois. The 2014 National Ploughing Championships will be held there this month. Photograph: Alf Harvey

Models on a 1967 Nuffield tractor at Ratheniska, Co Laois. The 2014 National Ploughing Championships will be held there this month. Photograph: Alf Harvey

 

The mud has hardly dried on the boots that returned from the Electric Picnic but Stradbally is already bracing itself for a much bigger influx of visitors as the National Ploughing Championships prepares to roll into nearby Ratheniska in less than two weeks.

The three-day event in Co Laois attracted a record 228,000 last year, dwarfing the 41,000 who attended this year’s Electric Picnic.

This is the second year in a row that the event will be held on the Carter farm, and ploughing site manager Tom Kelly said it would be like last year “but even better, with more of everything”.

Trade stands

Mr Kelly has been on the site since the first week in August, and he said it would be the end of October before the last vehicle would leave the land.

A parade of trucks went in and out of the site yesterday as the National Ploughing Association provided a preview of the event.

Like the main event the preview had something for everyone, including prize bullocks, robotic milking machines and Celia Holman Lee with a legion of lovely girls. Irish dancers, a man in a lion costume, horses and hounds, and children on toy tractors all milled around the site as the Ratheniska céilí band played in the background.

“The site is about 20 per cent bigger this year,” Mr Kelly said. “There are more stands and a lot of stands are looking for bigger space.

“We’ve laid double tracks in front of every stand so it will leave more room for the public to move around.”

The 25 car parks – with room for 50,000 vehicles – will have airborne blimps to help people find their way back to their cars.

Ploughmen

Eamonn TraceyJohn Whelan

The matriarch of the event, Anna May McHugh, said the championships were now the largest outdoor event in Europe, and one of the largest agricultural events in the world.

She was most looking forward to the national brown bread baking competition, revived after 23 years. “There’ll be huge interest in that.”

If you hanker for something more adventurous Rentokil will be unveiling its pop-up “pestaurant” at the championships.

The pest control company promises to serve up “an array of exotic cuisine including edible insects such as salted weaver ants, BBQ mole crickets and chocolate-dipped worms”.