Volunteers are the unsung heroes of the Ploughing
Over 200,000 visitors are expected to attend the Ploughing over the three days of the event on an 800-acre site at Ratheniska in Co Laois.
This is third time that Ratheniska hosts the event which is in its 83rd year as Ireland's premier agricultural show.
The competition at Ratheniska is all about the ploughing, but the hinterland events cover every aspect of Irish agriculture from pedigree breeding to artisan food, agricultural education and much more besides.
The host farm belongs to tillage man David Curtis while many of his neighbours' farms will be used for associated events and car parking.
"There have been huge improvements to the infrastructure for this year's show especially to road access thanks to Laois County Council," the doyenne of the National Ploughing Championships, Anna May McHugh, told the Farming Independent.
"And the gardai have developed several plans to deal with the expected traffic this week," she added.
The scale of the traffic management task for the Gardai is self evident as they effectively have to direct and manage the combined attendances of three All Ireland finals over three days. Local Garda superintendent, John Lawless, has appealed to those attending the event to stagger their arrival and departure times and not all to arrive at 9am and leave at 5pm.
To improve access to the site, the organisers have redesigned the pedestrian areas and have doubled the width of the track ways throughout the sites.
The site was handed to the NPA by the host farmers early in August and a team of over 1,000 volunteers have helped the full-time personnel lay out the site for the 1,400 exhibitors at the show.
The real 'heavy lifting' begins this week with the arrival of the commercial exhibits from the main tractor, combine harvester and 4x4 motor dealers.
Meanwhile, the daily catering side of the Ploughing is colossal. Up to 14,000 eggs and 16,000 litres of milk will be consumed.
Sixteen tonnes of beef, five tonnes of pork and four tonnes of cheese will be washed down with 60,000 cups of tea and coffee. And it will be all Irish produce apart from the Darjeeling and Brazilian rocket fuel.
The livestock rations are equally abundant with 300 bales of straw, 100 bales of hay and seven tonnes of meal in reserve for the 800 head competing in the various classes.
There will be enough power generated by the ten on-site electricity generators to power a small town', while the 5,000 metres of new piping and new wells will funnel the 100,000 gallons of water required.
This year's event will cost in excess of €3m to stage which is a far cry from the £9 3s 5d it cost to stage the first Ploughing in Gorey 83 years ago.
It began as a horse ploughing tussle after a difference of opinion between Lorcan Allen - the father of the former Fianna Fail TD for Wexford - and another political friend from Athy, JJ Bergin, over whether Kildare or Wexford produced the best ploughmen.
And it is also a long way from Anna May McHugh's first Ploughing at the turn of the 1970s when just over 500 people attended the championships which were held in Finglas - then a small rural village five miles north of Dublin's O'Connell Street
"Initially is was just a ploughing match but it has expanded over the years and now it is so much more.
"It's just amazing how the Ploughing has developed and it is amazing the way it showcases Irish agriculture. And with the economy now on the way up there will be plenty to talk about at Ratheniska next week,'' added Anna May.
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