Ballinasloe is this week preparing for the annual Ballinasloe October Fair and Festival, which gets under way in the town this weekend.
A comprehensive traffic management system has been put in place for the nine-day festival and gardaí are advising motorists to avoid Ballinasloe on Sunday and Monday unless they are attending the fair or have other business in the town.
The usual road closures will apply locally with Dunlo Street, Society Street, Main Street, and St Michael’s Square closed to traffic on Sunday and Monday. Sarsfield Road will also be closed to traffic on Sunday and Monday from the Ash Tree Junction. Traffic coming from the Tuam and Ahascragh direction will be diverted through Nutfield Cross and on to the M6.
Local sponsors have provided the bulk of the money to run the fair, which costs in the region of €100,000 annually. However the fair is worth €8.5 million to the local economy.
“With no direct source of income from tickets or gate receipts, the Ballinasloe Horse Fair and Festival is heavily dependent on sponsorship to meet its costs, which have been increasing steadily in recent years,” said Tim Broderick, chairperson of the Ballinasloe Fair and Festival committee.
“We are delighted with the support we have received from the local community in Ballinasloe and in particular the Carlton Shearwater Hotel, Ballinasloe Credit Union, Supermac’s, Gullane’s Hotel, Domac, and Premier Proteins whose continued sponsorship has ensured the survival of the 300-year-old horse fair,” he added.
Highlights of this year’s horse fair, which runs from Saturday October 1 to Sunday October 9, include the Ballinasloe Credit Union Horse of the Fair Competition held in the Fair Green on Sunday October 2. On Monday the Jim Derwin International Horse Dealer All Ireland Pony of the Fair and the Hayden’s Hotel Cob of the Fair competitions take place in the Fair Green. In addition to the activity on the Fair Green on Sunday and Monday, Ballinasloe’s main streets will be pedestrianised for a huge outdoor market.
In a departure from previous years there will be no parade on Saturday October 1; instead the streets of the town will play host to a street theatre and music busking competition sponsored by Ballinasloe Vintners. A prize fund of €500 is on offer for the competition, which will be adjudicated by Ballinasloe Musical Society. Organisers are encouraging street artists and buskers to register by contacting the festival co-ordinator on (087) 1339054.
In addition to the busking competition, families and young children will be entertained by a pet farm on the main streets and visits by popular Disney and cartoon characters.
Popular non-equine events during the festival include free street entertainment from the Big Generator on Sunday October 2, and the 16th anniversary of the Domac National Tarmac Tug of War Competition nightly from Tuesday with the grand final on Friday.
Following the finals of the Domac National Tarmac Tug of War Competition, the Ballinasloe night sky will be alight with the Supermac’s monster fireworks display at Ballinasloe Marina. This fantastic display signals the start of celebrations for the second weekend of the fair and festival.
The festival winds up with the Gullanes Hotel Cultural Weekend, encompassing the Vintage Day and the Premier Proteins Open Dog Show on Sunday as well as the very popular international market.
The Ballinasloe Horse Fair is worth in the region of €8.5 million to the local economy.
Full details of the Ballinasloe Fair and Festival are available on www.ballinasloeoctoberfair.com