independent

Monday 16 September 2019

Fields of gold

LOCAL ECONOMY EXPECTED TO RECEIVE €36MILLION BOOST FROM STAGING OF NATIONAL PLOUGHING CHAMPIONSHIPS

ESTHER HAYDEN

THE National Ploughing Championships could be worth a whopping €36 million to the Irish economy with over 180,000 people expected to descend on Wexford for the three day event.

During a deputation to the members of New Ross Town Council last week Anna Marie McHugh of the National Ploughing Championship said the annual three day event is celebrating its 81st year in existence this year.

She said that previously it had been estimated that the National Ploughing Championships boosted the economy by between €10million and €15million. However she said that last September the first economic impact study on the championships was held and it showed the championships were worth €36million.

Ms. McHugh said this was a national figure and not all of the money would be spent in Wexford but said ' the biggest proportion is for Wexford'.

Due to be stage in Heathpark, Old Ross it will be 80 years since the championships were first held in Wexford so it will be a very special occasion.

Although a staple on the Irish calendar and in particular the Irish farming calendar for many years the National Ploughing Championships was borne through very simple origins - some might even say typical male origins!

Ms. McHugh said the championships came about following a row with a Kildare man and a Wexford man over which county boasted the best ploughmen. Boys being boys decided the only way to settle the row was to have a competition and lo and behold 81 years on the tradition lives on although the competition has moved with the times and now includes the fairer sex!

That first year the competition was held in Athy while it was held the following year in Wexford. Last year the 80th anniversary was held in Athy while in keeping with tradition this year Wexford will host the competition.

Ms. McHugh said the annual three day event has attracted an average attendance over the past five years of 180,000.

This year the impressive 700 acre site at Heathpark which is predominately owned by farmer David O'Dwyer will attract a regional, national and international audience and will be Ireland's largest outdoor event.

She said the event has two main elements, trade and of course, the ploughing. However she said the core element to the championships is the ploughing. ' We are there each year to hold the national ploughing championships.'

Ms. McHugh said generally the largest crowd attends the championships on Wednesday followed by Tuesday while Thursday generally attracts the smallest crowd but said ' it's dependent on weather'.

Ms. McHugh paid tribute to the O'Dwyer and Kehoe families for the use of the land and the other local landowners who have made

the whole event possible by agreeing to allow the use of their land.

The President, Michael D. Higgins, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and a number of other government ministers and deputies will attend the event over the course of the three days and will be joined by television, radio and sporting personalities and local, regional and national media.

With over 1,200 exhibitions taking part on the trade side of the championships Ms. McHugh said it was a great opportunity for Heathpark, New Ross and Wexford.

She said the trade element of the championships was predominately a machinery and lifestyle exhibition. She said the other elements of the championships were there to complement this core element.

Over the past 15 to 20 years she said the championships had broadened its horizons to include education, lifestyle and health and beauty. 'Also this year for the first time we have the Ideal Home Show.'

She said an event which had been introduced last year, the Country Town Pavilion, was being continued this year. Other events will include fashions shows, bandstand and traditional music.

Ms. McHugh said the 350 competitors in the ploughing championships had 'no interest in the trade' side of things and were only there for the competition element with many of them seeking qualification for the European and World competitions.

And who won that first very ploughing championship I hear you ask...why Wexford of course!

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