Almost 200 people packed into the beautiful surroundings of Castlewellan Castle for the Sponsors’ Evening for the 46th Castlewellan Agricultural Show which takes place on Saturday 13th July.
Dromore’s Michelle McCauley, who is Castlewellan Show’s first female chairperson, welcomed the audience with special mention to Show President Walter Watson, patron Karen Patterson, Councillor Patrick Clarke and guest speaker for the evening broadcaster and business guru Nick Hewer. She also acknowledged the new Show Secretary Jackie Fitzpatrick who has taken over the reins from Violet Bell and Theresa Kearney who has come on board as Show Treasurer. In her speech she stressed the importance of the Show as a family day out attracting people from throughout Northern Ireland and beyond, showcasing the best of rural life. This year the challenge is to increase the number of people who come along by providing a wider range of activities including a vintage tea tent and fashion event. The Show will play host to the prestigious All Ireland Limousin final and the Beef Shorthorn National Championship. In addition an Irish Moiled cattle class has been introduced along with a new thoroughbred class, a display of Pathenaise cattle, a two day goat show and an increase in rare breeds by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. She finished by commending the hard work of all who had helped to make the night happen, particularly Forthill Foods and Alex Woods for providing the supper and Joanne Orr Carriages for bringing along her elegant horse and carriage.
Theresa Kearney, treasurer, thanked the sponsors for their continued loyalty to the long running show. She outlined new sponsorship packages including the gold level one for a unique single brand option to be associated with the Show. However, she played tribute to the many smaller sponsors who support over 360 individual classes and committed to working with them to maximise opportunities to promote their businesses and brands, particularly through social media. Stressing the importance of getting the Show onto a firm financial footing and protecting it for future generations, she encouraged sponsors to share their ideas on how to raise the profile before handing over to Show Secretary Jackie Fitzpatrick.
Jackie who has been in post for just six months thanked the committee for their support and hard work to date. Focusing on the Show’s presence on social media through facebook and twitter, she announced that the Committee had agreed to investing in a brand new website which would be going live next month and provide additional opportunities for sponsors. With this year’s Show falling on a bank holiday, optimism was expressed in relation to increasing footfall. Finally she thanked those who supported the guest goodie bags, Farmweek, Abernethy Butter, Mash Direct, Farming Life and NFU Ballynahinch
It was with great pleasure that the compere introduced our new patron, broadcaster and journalist Karen Patterson, a familiar voice in early morning milking parlours as co-presenter of BBC’s Good Morning Ulster radio programme. Karen recollected coming to the Show as a child with her father who exhibits Holstein cattle. She praised the spirit of the Show and spoke of the plight of local farmers as a result of the recent snow storms. She cited the Show as a celebration of country life and a time to recognise the eternal optimism of the farming community.
Councillor Patrick Clarke addressed the audience on behalf of Down District Council, highlighting the profile that the Show gives to the area and promoting Mournes as a must see destination. He welcomed the opportunity the event gives local food and craft businesses to promote their produce and was delighted that Castlewellan Show had been chosen to feature on Farm Fixer with Nick Hewer bringing the beautiful landscape to a television audience.
The final speaker of the evening was the much awaited Nick Hewer, presenter of Channel 4’s Countdown and Alan Sugar’s advisor on The Apprentice. Last Summer he trekked from Istanbul to Almaty in Kazakhstan for Children in Need and as patron of the British charity Hope and Homes for Children, he has travelled to Romania and Rwanda. He is in Northern Ireland for the programme Farm Fixer, giving advice to rural enterprises in these times of austerity. He praised the work of the committee particularly Michelle, Jackie and Theresa or as termed them “The Three Graces”. Speaking directly to sponsors he urged them to give to the Show not just in monetary terms but by way of promoting the event to their own clients and customers to provide additional reach. He said he was looking forward to coming back in July to see the fruits of all of the hard work come together.
The event closed with a presentation of new cups. Will and Allison from Abernethy Butter presented a cup for the best food exhibitor to Home Industries Chairperson Fiona Patterson. Niall Brown and Aidan Brannigan presented a cup to Sheep Chairperson Roy Graham for Sheepbreeders. Also in the sheep section, Victoria and Alan McFadden presented a cup for Hampshire Downs to Michelle McCauley. Teresa Mallon has donated a new cup for the best pet competition in memory of her dog Roxy who was a previous winner.
Castlewellan Show takes place on Saturday 13th July with entries opening in mid May. The Show will feature in the series Farm Fixer in late Autumn.