Variety the spice of life at Mullingar Agricultural Show
You don’t have to know your heifers from your hoggets to have a good day at this year’s Mullingar Agricultural Show which takes place this Sunday July 14.
One hundred and eight five years on from the first Mullingar Show, this year’s instalment has the most varied line-up in the event’s long and distinguished history with something for all ages and interests.
Of course, the backbone of the show remains, as it hopefully ever will, with the cattle, sheep and horse classes which attract the country’s best breeders. This year there are also new horse, pony and cattle sections with increased prize money on offer.
Even if you don’t come from an agricultural background, it is worth taking a walk around the area which houses the cattle and sheep classes to marvel at the bovine and ovine specimens on display and the level of care that their owners take getting their majestic animals ready for the visit of the judges.
Another section whose popularity endures is the show jumping competition, which features some of the finest riders in the country.
This year’s senior show jumping competition will take place on grass, a departure from previous years, while the children’s contests will continue to be held on sand.
If you never visit the cattle and sheep classes, or have no interest in show jumping there is still plenty to do at the show, which is not only a celebration of Westmeath’s rich agricultural and industrial heritage, but all aspects of rural life.
The indoor classes include a wide variety of competitions covering everything from preserves through to amateur photography.
The show also serves as a qualifier for a number of events including the All Ireland Baking Championships and the Bord Bia 7 A Day Best In Season Kitchen Garden All Ireland, which encourages growers to exhibit from their own kitchen garden, while there are a number of classes for young people including crafts and needlework, painting, cookery and handwriting, as well as classes for people with special needs.
One of the most popular events in recent years has been the Dog Show, which gets underway at 2pm.
There are ten classes in the dog show with four serving as All Ireland qualifiers, while there will also be a working gun dog display by the Broadmeadows Gun Club as well as a display by the Westmeath Hound Club.
The show’s indoor and outdoor trade stand sections, which feature a variety of business, local, national and international continue to grow year or year. For those interested in the latest innovations in the farming sector there is a large section of ground devoted to machinery and other agriculture products.
There are also a large number of stands for artisan food, home made crafts, equestrian goods and other products.
As ever children are well catered for at this year’s show. In addition to the popular amusements, which are always a big hit, Agri Aware’s team are bringing their mobile farm to the Show once again.
Billed as a “unique outdoor classroom”, children get the opportunity to meet and pet a host of a variety of small animals.
Country music fans are also catered for at the show with a performance by the singer Gerry Guthrie and his band, which gets underway at 3pm.
A native of Mayo, over the last five years Guthrie has firmly established himself as one of the most popular singers on the country and western circuit.
The entertainment will continue later in the evening in the show bar where weary attendees can rest their feet.
Another relatively recent addition to the Show’s schedule of events is the sheep shearing competition, which attracts competitors from across the country. Even if you don’t know one end of a ewe from the other, it’s hard not to be impressed by the speed and technique of the shearers.
PRO Paddy Donnelly, who is one of five members from the committee who, thanks to the support of over 200 shareholders, purchased the Showgrounds from the Land Commission in 1976, says that the event has changed significantly over the last 43 years.
“Over the years there has been more and more things added that cater for families and children.
“Years ago we showed the cattle and sheep and horses but there was very little in the way of entertainment.
“There were no sections like the dog shows or amusements.
“If you don’t move forward, you’re going nowhere. You have to cater to people’s needs and they have changed a lot over the years. You have to stay ahead of the posse. If you run the same things year or year, people will get tired of it.
“You have to have variety and as they say variety is the spice of life,” Mr Donnelly concluded.