Ireland’s oldest agricultural show is one of many cancelled in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
For the second year in a row, the hugely popular Iverk Agricultural Show, held in Piltown in Co Kilkenny, has been affected by the pandemic restrictions.
The organisers say they are “bitterly disappointed” to have to cancel the show but the health and safety of all show-goers must be considered.
Scheduled for August 28, it has been called off at an early stage, with show president Jack Kearns saying organisers “are bitterly disappointed to have to take this action”.
“Guided by the recommendations of the Government, HSE, Irish Shows Association, and bearing in mind the health and safety of all our friends and patrons, we felt this was the appropriate action to take.”
The Iverk Show has faced many challenges since it was founded in 1826.
Mr Kearns said: “The resilience of all those involved will ensure that the 2022 show to be held in Piltown on Saturday, August 27, 2022 will be, once again, a great success.”
It one of the highest-profile shows called off so far.
Of shows scheduled to take place before midsummer, the Covid toll in Co Cork so far includes Belgooly Show, with show chairman John Stanley saying his Committee has taken the difficult decision to cancel the show for 2021 due to the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
“When we cancelled the show last year, we were confident life would be back to normal by now and that organising the show would be well under way.
“However, Covid-19 restrictions make that impossible.
“The show committee reassure all that our plan now is to ensure there will be a Belgooly Show in 2022.”
Elsewhere in Munster, the Newmarket-on-Fergus Agricultural Show in Co Clare is a Covid casualty.
“It is with great regret and sadness, we announce we will not be running our agricultural show this year.
“Under normal circumstances, at this stage of the year, planning would be well underway for the show on the May Bank Holiday weekend.
A spokesperson said, “The staus with Covid-19, restrictions and vaccine rollout is still too uncertain for the committee to decide to go ahead with the show.”
The Ballyfoyle Agricultural Show in Co Kilkenny has adhered to the Irish Shows Association recommendation that no show can run until the government deem it safe to do so.
“Regretfully, we have decided not to run our show this year, in line with government guidelines.
“However, we will mark our show date, Sunday, June 27, with an exciting virtual fundraiser in aid of Carlow Kilkenny Homecare.”
In the west, Claregalway Agricultural Show is cancelled for 2021.
Across Northern Ireland, many show committees have made early decisions to cancel.
Armagh County Show chairman George McCall said: “It is with a very heavy heart that we have taken this difficult decision, but with lockdown still in place, and restrictions only slowly easing, we do not want to take the unnecessary risk of putting on a large event that may jeopardise the health of our community and the safety of our committee and volunteers.
“It takes several months of intense work to organise an event of this scale, but with the uncertainty of how long it will take to get back to some form of normality, it is just not possible to run the show this year.
It is one of the longest-running shows in Ireland, with a report of one being held in the city of Armagh as far back as 1829, and cancelled only a few times, during world wars and for a foot and mouth outbreak.
Ballymoney Show is also cancelled, along with the Ballymena, Omagh, Castewellan, Limavady, Antrim and Lurgan Shows.
In a statement, the Irish Shows Association (ISA) told its member shows the ISA board of directors has no choice but to advise that shows not be held in 2021, until the appropriate authorities deem that it is safe to do so.
The representative body for agricultural shows said that even at level 1 Covid restrictions, the maximum number of people for an outdoor gathering would be 500.
“This would not be viable for most of our member shows. The regulations are different in Northern Ireland, but the dates for reopening are still somewhat unclear. We will continue to liaise with the relevant authorities on both sides of the border and advise our member shows.”
The €600,000 Department of Rural and Community Development funding to shows awarded in 2020 is still ringfenced for the 2021 shows, if they are able to run.
“We hope that this valuable financial support will continue, as there is no doubt that shows will need financial assistance to get up and running again” said the ISA.
This year’s Claremorris Agricultural Show has also been cancelled due to the Covid-19 situation. One of the leading events in the west and northwest, it had been scheduled for the August bank holiday weekend.
The Bannow and Rathangan show in July at Duncormick in south Wexford has also been called off.