Balmoral 2021: Subdued but upbeat atmosphere as the show must go on

There’s a relaxed vibe around the thoroughfares as crowds gather at this year’s postponed Balmoral Show.

The show was pushed back from its traditional date in May after Covid-19 restrictions in force at the time ruled out any chance of the show proceeding.

Organisers have spent the last few months working with government advisors to do the seemingly impossible; adapt an event normally attended by upwards of 100,000 people, to crowd limits and social distancing requirements.

Aisles have been considerably widened to allow for social distancing, and with several trade exhibitors choosing to run stands without staff, the main action is taking place around the show rings.

Despite the circumstances, coming out of the dregs of Northern Ireland’s extended Covid-19 lockdown, the mood is upbeat with many just glad to see old friends.

No official estimate has been made public for the numbers currently inside the grounds, but understandably, turnout is noticeably lower than in previous years.

It’s understood the showgrounds have a Covid-19 guidance limit of 22,000, but it’s not known how many tickets have been sold.

Those attending must purchase tickets online in advance and must also bring proof that they have been vaccinated at least 14 days prior to the event, or tested negative for Covid-19. To fulfil government Track and Trace obligations, tickets are day-specific but organisers say they can still be bought as the week goes on. Full entry conditions can be found on the RUAS website.

Rhonda Geary, operations manager for the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS), which organises the show, said: “We are delighted with the response that there has been in ticket sales in the current circumstances.”

A total of 2,100 livestock entries have been made across the 650 classes scheduled. Record numbers of entries in ponies and poultry classes have been recorded and almost 300 beef cattle and 100 dairy registered.

This year, however, there will be no sheep classes as the later date comes at the wrong stage of the production cycle.

Balmoral Show 2021 highlights

This year, the main arena boasts attractions like the adrenaline-charged Bolddog Lings Freestyle Team, a display by the RAF Parachute team as well as the show’s first-ever polo exhibition.

Poultry classes are currently underway this morning (Wednesday. September 22) along with the shearing heats.

Thursday highlights include the Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster machinery handling and ladies football competitions, performance bulls championship and horse parade, while the beef and dairy interbreed championships will take place on Friday.

Saturday sees the culmination of the shearing competitions with the Royal Ulster International Shearing Championship getting underway at 10:30a.m.