FOR more than a century the County Clare Show in Ennis Showgrounds has played an important part in the agricultural heritage of the county. This year’s event, marking the 108th show, promises to be a carnival of colour with a host of show stopping events.
Even the weather won’t be able to put a halt to the fun on Sunday, July 29 as the Showgrounds has the benefit of an indoor facility. While the focus is on all aspects of rural life, according to organisers, the day can be enjoyed by people of all ages, whether they live in the country, a town or city.
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has confirmed he will be attending the annual show and is looking forward to the occasion.
The total prize fund for this year’s show is around €25,000 with competitions ranging from showjumping, horse classes, cattle classes, carriage driving, pony classes, horticulture, fowl, a dog show, donkeys, arts and crafts. The show will also feature a best dressed lady and most suitably dressed gentleman competition and, for the first time, the Clare Garden Festival featuring a host of guest speakers.
Mary Stafford, PRO for the Clare Show Society explained, “Because this is an agricultural show, it includes every aspect of rural life. But it is something everyone can enjoy, you don’t have to have a rural background. More and more people are starting to do things like grow their own, or even keeping chickens in their back gardens in towns across the country. Of course, everybody loves the dog section, headed by Deirdre Ryan, and the Ennis Dog Club are doing dog agility, which should be a terrific spectacle. All children love the rare fowl breeds, the miniature horse and ponies and the donkeys. And of course, there will be a bit of fashion on the day with the best-dressed competitions. There’s great interest in that, I know people who are coming from Limerick and Galway for that.”
Mary said the town is fortunate to have a facility like the Showgrounds on its doorstep. “The town has expanded so much in recent years that maybe there isn’t the awareness out there of what we have in the Showgrounds. The Showgrounds brings a lot of people to the town of Ennis, it’s another reason to publicise the county and a great amenity to our town. And with our indoor facility, we are very lucky, no matter the weather there is a place for people to go during the show.
“We have had the National Showjumping Championships here last year, which brought people from all over the country here. And they are returning once again this September because they were very impressed by the facilities here. People can literally walk from the town to this fantastic facility. We have quite extensive grounds and an awful lot of work has been put into our main arena. It really is an all-weather surface. We have a big indoor school there as well with various uses, which is fantastic. We could facilitate training in various sports and in the winter time, we have stabling there also. The Clare branch of the Irish Pony Club run their tuition here on Friday evenings.”
As always, this year’s show will feature a wide variety of horse classes. “We will have a lot of qualifiers for finals in different shows. Joe Lillis is heading this section and there is a great choice of classes for young horses. The champion young horse of the show is always a great spectacle with the winner presented with the de Valera Cup. This perpetual trophy was awarded in 1946 by the late Eamonn de Valera and he made a special effort to attend the show annually to present the cup to the winner,” said Mary.
The pony classes are headed by Gerardine Lynch and Pat Hannon, with Kollette O’Driscoll heading Connemara pony classes. The showjumping schedule is being headed by Jimmy Quinn and will include events such as the Munster Grand Prix League qualifier and the Leddy League qualifier for amateurs. “The amateur class has got very popular in recent years. It’s a great way of bringing on young horses. And some of our young Clare riders have qualified for the RDS amateurs. It’s a lovely competition and very important, particularly in Clare, which is a great county for breeding horses.”
The carriage-driving classes are headed by Pat Quinn, as Mary explained, “These carriages are very old and have been very well restored, it really is an amazing spectacle”. Kevin Shanahan will be heading the cattle section, which will feature many breeds and classes.
Heading the home produce section, with arts and crafts, is Sonia Schorman. Horticulture will also feature heavily in the day’s events. “We are very lucky that we have our indoor school for our horticulture. It’s a great space and the weather doesn’t affect it. And of course we have the Clare Garden Festival as part of the show. The children are always very interested in the arts and crafts, the baking and painting. It gives them an insight into extending their own talents and what surrounds them in nature,” said Mary.
Recent weeks have seen members of the committee working hard in preparation for the show. “We’ve been meeting regularly in the run-up, getting sponsorship and organising the events. It’s been a real team effort, a combination of energies. Our chairman, Bernard Hanrahan, and secretary, Geraldine McCarthy, have been extremely busy along with all of our members and heads of sections. Everybody has been working really hard in preparation for the show and the Showgrounds is looking absolutely beautiful. John Joe Kerins and Mike Kelly have been working on a continuous basis to get it looking great,” she said.
“Like businesses all over, we have had some tough times, we’ve had to do lots of fundraising and we’ve been very lucky with our sponsors. It’s amazing how when the chips are down, the members row in and give up their energies to support one another. And, of course, the businesses in the town have always been very supportive.”
According to Mary, the society is always open to new members. “We have formed into a co-operative society, so the members own it and we’re very open to new members. It’s a wonderful way of getting rural and urban people together and there is a real community aspect to it. This has been kept going for over 100 years so it’s nice for new energies to come in who can continue this for future generations. You can become a member by buying some shares and joining the committee of whatever your specific interest is. Maybe it’s horses or cattle, dogs, horticulture, there are lots of categories. I think we need to have young people involved, for different generations to come together. It makes life more interesting.”
For full details on the show, check www.clarecountyshow.com.