I am enjoying the second of a two year stint as President of the Irish Shows Association, the governing body for some 134 affiliated agricultural shows throughout Ireland, North and South.
Last year I travelled north to visit some of the Shows for the first time and it was a pleasure to meet with so many enthusiastic Show Committees and I was more than impressed by the professionalism with which the Shows were organised and run and by the diversity of classes and the standard of exhibits I witnessed in the Northern Shows.
There is a proud tradition of staging first class showing exhibitions in the Northern Region and the bar is set to a very high standard. Some of the Shows have the added advantage of having the most superb of showgrounds which add to the general ambiance and enjoyment of the many high class exhibits and family events and interests available to visitors. I was particularly heartened by the warmth of the welcome I received on my visits to the Northern Shows and I am grateful to the Chairman of the Northern Region of the ISA, Bill Leeman, who seemed to be always on hand at the various Shows and more than willing to make my visits memorable.
It has been a privilege and a pleasure for me, as President, to observe the confluence of so many different elements, factors and strands which together combine to give birth to each of our affiliated Shows year after year. The vast majority of our Shows are planned, organised and run by a dedicated network of volunteers without whose involvement rural life would be the poorer and each and every one of them is deserving of our respect and appreciation. In addition very many sponsors surrender their hard earned cash to support our Shows and are a sine qua non of every Show’s very existence. Without our sponsors we would be in serious difficulty. As the saying goes “you never miss the water until the well runs dry”. It is of vital importance, therefore, that we would support the businesses of our sponsors wherever possible. Our exhibitors too are entitled to command much credit for their commitment as they are the heartbeat of our Shows and present their produce and animals to the highest exhibition standards at great inconvenience and expense to themselves. Many of our exhibitors travel from show to show and are extremely happy when they achieve the red rosette spot but are never downbeat when failing to do so.
Our Shows provide a classic example of the benefits and value of volunteerism. Because of the involvement of local volunteers communities are brought together with a common objective, namely, to engender community support, spirit, and cohesion. I am always struck by the enthusiasm and commitment of the host of volunteers who are prepared to “keep the Show on the road” and overcome major challenges at times when doing so. It is inspiring to meet so many people who take pride in their community and give up their time for the greater good in their local area. Every Show I visited from the smallest to the largest included essential elements such as a range of diverse classes of animals, domestic arts and crafts and family orientated events, the common theme throughout all of which was entertainment, education and the promotion of excellence.
I earnestly hope that the challenge of Brexit will not impact on the free movement of exhibitors travelling northwards and visa versa and that our ISA show family will remain fully united, enjoy the camaraderie and continue to learn from and share best practices with each other.
Finally, I wish all our Shows in Northern Ireland and throughout Ireland every success for the 2019 season and I hope the sun shines on their efforts.