MORE than 228,000 people attended the National Ploughing Championships this week, smashing all previous records.
Some 57,000 attended the final day, boosting takings for the three-day event to over €4.5m – which is a combination of entrance fees and exhibitor charges.
National Ploughing Association (NPA) managing director Anna May McHugh said the event had cost around €4m to stage because of the huge amount of infrastructure necessary, including fencing, water wells, cabling and trackway.
She said they always hoped to be profitable to ensure they had a fund in case torrential rain hit the event another year.
Generally, good weather, a good harvest and a central location at the crossroads all contributed to its success this year.
"The weather was a major, major factor," she said noting the electric atmosphere on site in Ratheniska, Co Laois.
The NPA also confirmed that, following its success, the event will return to the same site next year.
However, Ms McHugh said they did not want to grow the event any further because it was at its limit, and she ruled out extending it to four days.
"I think we're at the stage now where you would not like to see it grow bigger, it's important to keep our feet well on the ground, to manage what we have and manage it well."
The crowd of 228,000 compares with 187,000 last year and the previous record of 220,000 in Tullow, Co Carlow, in 2006.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny noted the "distinct sense of confidence" among visitors after a good harvest, and excellent prospects for Irish food exports topping €10bn next year.
"From a farming point of view there is an air of confidence building towards milk quotas being abolished, and from that point of view, great interest in land transactions," he said.
"This is a great showcase of modern Ireland and it's here you meet the entire spread of Irish society," he said at the event.
However, Mr Kenny refused to give a commitment to co-fund rural development payments to farmers to match EU funds.
He said that there was about €300m a year in EU rural development funds for Ireland under the new Common Agricultural Policy. "It's too early to say what the extent of assistance will be. It's a very complicated arrangement but our intention is to draw the maximum amount of funds down for best use."
Mr Kenny also paid tribute to former 'Irish Times' journalist Sean MacConnell who died earlier this month and whose presence was greatly missed at the event.
"He always added a particular flavour to his offerings as a reporter," he said.
Supermarket chain Aldi said it had more than 100,000 visitors to its marquee to watch cookery demonstrations and sample products.
Visitors wolfed down 2,000 litres of icecream, 15,000 glasses of orange juice, 70,000 sausages and 38,400 slices of artisan pizza.
And Garda Supt Yvonne Loundon said gardai were very pleased with how the traffic management plan had worked, despite serious delays on Wednesday night, which was the most congested over the three days. "It was like having the entire population of Cork leaving the place at one time, so it was just going to be slow with those volumes," she said.