World Ploughing Championships

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Two weekends ago we headed to the World Ploughing Championships in Tullow, County Carlow, about 1.5 hours north of here. It was a 4-day long event, with the Irish Ploughing Championship the first two days and then the World Championship. In addition to the plowing, it was a big farm show along the lines of our Farm Technology Days. Let me say that it’s a really big show. Over the four days they had a total attendance of around 220,000 people. It was held on a 230 acre farm, which is very large by Irish standards (average farm size in Ireland is about 80 acres).

Our friend Willie scored us tickets to the event, along with a coupon for a free steak sandwich for lunch (thanks Willie!). He also advised Kathleen “Be sure to wear your rain gear and Wellies!”. We headed out for the show on Saturday morning in a pouring rain, minus our rain gear and Wellies. Neither Kathleen or I owned decent rain gear in the States, so we moved to Ireland, average rainfall nearly 40”, without rain gear. In a last-minute packing switch-up, Kathleen’s hiking boots didn’t make the trip either. So, she in tennis shoes, both toting umbrellas, we decided to brave the weather for our once-only shot at seeing the show. I was certain we’d be able to get rain gear at the show, but if not it was going to be a long day!

On the drive up we were listening to a morning radio show where the DJ was playing requests. It seemed like every other request was for someone “Driving to the Ploughing Championships in Co. Carlow,” so we knew we’d have plenty of company. We hit the traffic jam probably 8 miles before we got to the site. From there it was stop-and-go traffic for nearly an hour as we followed the Gardai’s (police) traffic directors. We were directed into a farm field with aspirations of being a swamp, and were directed along the high ground to a parking spot at the end of the field, with the show nowhere in sight. Much of the field was being used for parking only by 4-wheel drive vehicles, rightfully so. After a 12 mile walk, we spotted the show and the drop-off point for tractors shutting people over to the show. A short ride in a modified manure spreader and we finally hit the show gate. To our relief, right inside the gate was a tent selling rain gear and boots, and like you often see at shows like this, they had special sales going for the show. I picked up a nice oilskin jacket, and Kathleen got a nylon rain jacket and a pair of Wellies (rubber barn boots). Waterproof shoes were the key to enjoying the show, because as you can see from the pics below, much of the show was covered in 6-inch deep mud puddles.

We arrived on the show grounds around 10 in the morning, and ended up staying til almost 3 in the afternoon. Even with that amount of time, we didn’t even come close to seeing everything. One of our big disappointments was never finding the “JCB Dancing Diggers” show, a dance/ballet show done with backhoes. You can see some video here, it’s really quite impressive. I was really surprised to see an investment property exhibition with over 50 exhibitors selling property in other countries. That seems to be a big thing here. There apparently are tax reasons to own property in other countries, so many people own weekend or vacation homes elsewhere in the world.

The show was a really good opportunity for us to learn a lot about rural Ireland in one fell swoop. I got a good picture of all the government agencies and non-profit organizations that are doing work in rural Ireland, which of course is something I want to explore while we’re here. We had a chance to visit the tents of several political parties here, including Sinn Fein, Fianna Foil and Fine Gael. And finally, we had a chance to sample a lot of good homemade Irish food, like cheese and pastries. There was even a Guiness tent on the grounds, though we didn’t stop in.

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