This year’s Balmoral Show, in its new September date, will be a ticket only event with a potential cap of around 20,000 visitors set per day.
These are just two of the measures event organiser Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS) is implementing to increase safety for exhibitors and visitors alike attending the Belfast show.
The cancellation of last year’s show resulted in RUAS losing around £1 million, and the society was then forced to move this year’s event from the traditional May date to September 22-25, 2021, in the hope regulations surrounding Covid-19 will have eased sufficiently by then to allow the show to go ahead.
Rhonda Geary, RUAS operations director, confirmed the new show attendance structure and how the RUAS is liaising with the government on up-to-date guidance.
“Planning for the 2021 Balmoral Show in September is ongoing and the committees and staff have been exploring all options to enable the event to go ahead,” she said.
“The show will be a pre-purchased ticket only event this year. We do expect that there will be a cap on the attendance but we do not know what this will be at this stage. We plan to have tickets on sale late June/early July.”
She said the successful rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, along with the ongoing easing of restrictions in Northern Ireland, had given the society confidence that September will be a viable date to run the show.
“There are of course challenges in running an event of this size and we will need to adapt to ensure we can make the show Covid secure and compliant,” added Ms Geary.
“We are continually examining the show plans and working to ensure there is space to socially distance and to avoid build-up of visitors in popular areas.”
She said aisles and roadways are being widened, and trade stands will be managed to ensure visitors and staff can socially distance.
“We will have signage and clearly marked areas around showing rings but a certain amount of onus will also be on individuals to maintain a social distance themselves as they would in any public place,” added Ms Geary.
“In line with current guidance, masks will be mandatory while indoors. Food and alcohol will be on sale at the show and we will adhere to current government regulations at the time.”
Traditionally livestock are housed at the showground for the duration of Balmoral Show and this has caused some concern for breeders with some questioning whether it is sensible if the livestock, or indeed themselves, have to stay there overnight.
Ms Geary said: “We plan to have livestock on site for the duration of the show but again we are awaiting guidance and will amend our plans accordingly.
“We very much hope that the stockmen and women can stay overnight too, but we are awaiting government guidance and this will be decided nearer to the time.”