Winter Fair to remain a one-day event
There is no appetite to transform the Winter Fair from a one day to a two-day event, according to Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS) Chief Executive Colin McDonald.
“We reviewed this matter recently and the overwhelming response from trade exhibitors and breeders was that the current format worked extremely well,” he said.
“The reality is that the Winter Fair is a trade gathering: it is not a December version of Balmoral Show. So visitor numbers, per se, are not the be all and end all when it comes to assessing the relevance of the event.”
This year’s Winter Fair takes place on Thursday December 10. It will be held for the first time at Balmoral Park, on the outskirts of Lisburn.
McDonald confirmed that this will be the new home of the event.
“Its strategic location, close to the A1 from Dublin should make the show more attractive to breeders and visitors form the Republic of Ireland,” he said.
“The free parking will be an added attraction in this regard.”
McDonald said that the RUAS subsidises the Winter Fair, Balmoral Show and its other charity-related activities to the tune of £2.5m annually.
“We make our money from the exhibitions held at the King’s Hall and the Eikon Centre, which was recently relocated to the new Lisburn site.
“The commercial development of the original King’s Hall site in Belfast will allow us invest in the facilities that we need at Balmoral Park.
“This will be split into two projects: private housing on 16 acres and the commercial development of a further 16 acres, which takes in the King’s Hall and the existing office blocks. The King’s Hall is a listed building.
“It will take up to seven years to complete the housing project. Our aim is to appoint a partner in order to realise the full potential of the commercial development envisaged for the Belfast site.
“Both projects will be furthered in tandem with each other. It is still far too soon to accurately predict the total value of the development work that will be undertaken at the King’s Hall over the coming years.”