Farm Ireland

Thursday 25 April 2019

Ploughing visitors told to bring their wellies as organisers prepare for a record turnout

Star attraction: Up to 300,000 people are expected at the event. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Star attraction: Up to 300,000 people are expected at the event. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Conor McCrave

Conor McCrave

All roads lead to Tullamore as the final day of preparations gets under way today ahead of 300,000 people descending on the National Ploughing Championships.

Some 200 volunteers worked round the clock over the weekend to ready the Offaly site for what is expected to be a record turnout at this year's celebration of all things farming.

Now in its 87th year, and carrying the title of the biggest agricultural event in Europe, the three-day extravaganza will be opened tomorrow morning by President Michael D Higgins.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will also get his fill of the celebrations when he arrives on Wednesday morning.

Everything from jam and puddings to beef and dairy will be on display, according to organisers who say an expanded food display area will be a treat for visitors.

"We're really drawing attention to the food area this year. We have stout contained within that food sector too," said Anne Marie McHugh, assistant director of the National Ploughing Association (NPA).

Food writer Mary Berry will bring her own expertise to the festivities on Wednesday.

While numbers continue to grow year after year, Ms McHugh said the core aim was to showcase the vast output from the agriculture industry.

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"There's so much variety and we don't focus on one thing. I know it sounds crazy and people say the figures are great but for the NPA it's never about figures," she said.

Exhibitors will line 150 acres of the site as they draw guests to cookery demonstrations, farming displays and fashion shows. Some 63 food and drink outlets will serve those who travel to watch competitors take to the fields for the contests.

More than five tonnes of cheese and 19,000 eggs will be used to feed the masses.

While visitors will be in high spirits, the weather could cause problems for organisers as wet and windy conditions look set to blow in over tonight.

Last year, heavy rains destroyed tents in the pop-up village, closing some areas off completely and leaving vehicles stranded in car parks.

This year, umbrellas and wellies will be a must once again as the tail-end of a sub-tropical storm could see conditions take a turn for the worse.

"There's a good chance that the fields could be wet for most of the time," said a Met Éireann forecaster.

"Weather fronts are giving rainfall and breezy conditions for most of the days as well."

Despite the bleak forecast, organisers are confident they have taken the right steps to keep a positive atmosphere going.

"We knew there was going to be rain but we're fairly set up," Ms McHugh said. "Right now and over the weekend we have people out at tents making sure we're well tethered down.

"Of course, we are telling people to make sure they have their wellies with them."

Tents and marquees in the visitor village should provide plenty of shelter from the elements and those arriving by train will be able to take shuttle buses directly to the site.

Bus Éireann will be transporting commuters from 7am to 11.30pm.

Drivers can park free of charge and there is a designated area for camper vans.

Meanwhile, musicians Jake Carter and Mike Denver will be performing at the event.

Irish Independent

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