ALISON HEALY, Food and Farming Correspondent
ALL ROADS will lead to New Ross, Co Wexford, this week as the National Ploughing Championships get under way tomorrow.
More than 180,000 people are expected to attend the farming event, which is being held on a 700-acre site at Heathpark.
They will include President Michael D Higgins, who officially opens the event at noon tomorrow, although exhibitions will have been open since 9am.
Other visitors to the championships over the three days will include Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney and Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan.
More than 330 ploughing competitors will vie for All-Ireland titles in the coming days and will also hope to qualify for world, European and other international competitions.
But many visitors to the site won’t be there for the ploughing. The machinery exhibitions are one of the biggest draws at the event, while people also come to see the livestock shows, vintage exhibitions, sheep dog trials, lamb shearing and forestry exhibitions.
The site, which uses the farms of David O’Dwyer and Peter Kehoe, is about 10km east of New Ross.
A detailed traffic plan developed by An Garda Síochána in Wexford centres around five major routes into the site.
Gardaí are encouraging visitors to follow these signposted routes to avoid unnecessary delay and traffic disruption. Bus Éireann is running special services from Wexford and Waterford train stations to Ballinaboola, where a shuttle bus will take passengers to the site.
The National Ploughing Association, which runs the event, said this year’s championships had more trade inquiries than ever before.
An extra five kilometres of metal walkways have been laid to lead the way to 1,300 exhibitors.
This year’s event will have a strong focus on food with Good Food Ireland running cookery demonstrations by chefs such as Ballymaloe’s Darina Allen, Catherine Fulvio of Ballynocken Cookery School and the Shelbourne Hotel’s Garry Hughes.
The number of food-related exhibitions, demonstrations and stands is higher than ever before, according to the National Ploughing Association’s managing director Anna May McHugh.
More quirky attractions will include the Irish Axe Factor, welly throwing and pole climbing.
There will be daily fashion shows as well as the annual Most Appropriately Dressed competition on Wednesday.
A UCD study of last year’s ploughing championships in Athy estimated that visitors spent just under €36.5 million during the three days of the event, including more than €7 million in the various shopping arcades set up at the championships.
It found that 80 per cent of visitors came from outside the locality.
The gender divide was 63 per cent male, 37 per cent female.
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