Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 24 September 2017

Crowds brave deluge for fun day with free stuff and 'yer man on TV'

CELEBRITIES and free stuff were the most hotly prized commodities at the Ploughing yesterday.

Take 74,000 people on a day out, compress them into a temporary tented town, add a generous sprinkle of roving camera crews and you have the perfect recipe for contagious excitement.

Sports stars, politicians and celebrity chefs, anyone who was anyone could be guaranteed to generate a noisy buzz as onlookers rushed to see who it was that everybody else was rushing to see.

Even RTE weatherman Gerry Murphy was engulfed by a 20-deep ring of craning onlookers when he did a simple weather update on camera in the main thoroughfare, one eager voyeur declaring she had no idea of his name, "but he's on the telly".

Munster and Ireland rugby hero Paul O'Connell, meanwhile, was the big draw in the National Dairy Council tent.

It wasn't just the boys who were queueing up for an autograph, scarcely a teenage girl passed on the chance to have her picture taken with the sporting giant -- in fact there were so many that he had to take them two at a time, and still he never stopped smiling.

And while Kilkenny hurlers may have been vanquished for once this year, it didn't stop them attracting the crowds to the Avonmore milk bar, while hundreds also thronged to see high-profile chef Nevin Maguire and broadcasting star Marty Whelan, now of Lyric FM.

Politicians, meanwhile, failed to generate quite the same intensity as the showbiz celebs, though ministers Brendan Smith and Pat Carey still had ample opportunities to meet and greet the punters.

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Labour leader Eamon Gilmore was out and about with Labour's presidential hopeful Michael D Higgins.

Mr Gilmore made a virtue out of the party's decision not to take a stand at the Ploughing, saying it was time for "political parties to go to the people" rather than "expecting people to come to us".

However he took umbrage at a suggestion that this meant Labour was "homeless and had no women" (following its continued loss of female TDs), dismissing it as a "cynical comment".

But later, when he had climbed off his high horse and recovered his sense of humour, he agreed it was actually the kind of quip he would like to have made himself.

Despite a torrential downpour early yesterday morning, it stayed dry for a large part of the day and the sun even came out for prolonged stretches -- perfectly illuminating the gleaming layer of liquid mud that covered the ground thickly.

This appeared to have given every teenage girl within a 100-mile radius the opportunity to don her favourite festival apparel and appear a la Kate Moss, in hotpants and wellies.

Secondary students were the dominant demographic in the 74,000-strong crowd, with gaggles of teens cruising the aisle looking for any freebies they could lay their hands on.

In one tent, they stormed the counters grabbing bags with free pencils, biros and stickers as fast as the staff could hand them out.

In another, they seized little packets of what looked like sweets but turned out to be measuring tapes -- to the disappointment of some, but hardly surprising given it was Safefood's tent and they were trying to encourage people to lose some weight.

When the rain came late in the afternoon, boy did it come; the sudden deluge sending the remaining ranks diving for cover in any available tent.

The resulting ground conditions mean Taoiseach Brian Cowen will have plenty of muck to contend with when he visits the site today -- but at least this stuff is easier to clean up than what he's had to contend with recently.

Irish Independent



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