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Tens of thousands to attend Ballinasloe Fair

Additional Gardai are being drafted into Ballinasloe ahead of the 300th Fair and Festival that is to take place over eight days in early October.

Tens of thousands are expected descend on the town for the annual horse fair which had been cancelled over the past couple of years because of Covid.

However, an unofficial event did take place last year in Ballinasloe – and while it was much smaller and not organised, it did require some considerable Garda attention and several arrests were made.

Garda Inspector Declan Rock told the Connacht Tribune that additional resources would be deployed from Tuam, Loughrea and Gort for the duration of the event which takes place from October 2 to 8.

He also said that there would be a traffic management plan in place for the duration of the festival and he advised those visiting the town to park responsibly.

The 300th Ballinasloe Fair and Festival will provide a huge boost for the local economy as it is expected to draw considerable crowds to the town for its duration.

Inspector Rock has assured locals that there would be additional Garda resources available in the town during the week-long festivities.

He also advised those attending the festival to abide by all of the Garda requirements and he added that it was hoped that the event would pass off without incident.

“We will have additional Gardai in place and the locals are assured that every effort will be made to ensure that there will be no disturbance. Large crowds are expected in Ballinasloe for the duration of the event, but we have a plan in place that will deal with every eventuality,” Inspector Rock added.

Director of Services with Galway County Council Liam Hanrahan said that up to ten meetings had been held with the organisers and it was an event that was much anticipated and he described it as one that would embrace all facets of society.

“It has always been about the horse and this will remain a vital part of this year’s show but it will also involve the community in terms of events being organised.

“There are arts and cultural events being organised as part of the festivities and this is something that will hopefully be carried into the future,” Mr Hanrahan added.

Traditionally the annual October Fair in Ballinasloe, which is hugely popular among the Traveller community, attracts around 80,000 visitors for the week-long festival and this includes a major influx from England.

However, given the novelty of this year’s event and the efforts being put in by the organisers, the crowds are expected to surpass this by a considerable number.

It will provides a huge economic boost for the town with the pubs, hotels and restaurants largely benefiting.

Last year the event was cancelled due to the pandemic but it did not prevent a large crowd turning out with a lot of the usual horse trading and ‘showing’ taking place on the Fairgreen.

The co-ordinating committee said that the decision to call off the Fair last year was taken with regret but that the public’s safety was paramount.

The crowds that attend the event on the weekends in particular throng the Fairgreen in Ballinasloe and it would be very difficult to implement social distancing.

The main events at the Fair include the ‘showing’ of horses and the sale which takes place in the Fairgreen and attracts huge crowds and no small amount of onlookers.

Some of the other events include lunging (moving a horse around in a circle), fortune telling and even some matchmaking takes place but not as much as in the past.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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