Ballinasloe Horse Fair
The annual Ballinasloe Horse Fair is one of Europe’s oldest horse fairs. Over the course of nine days in October this East Galway town comes alive with the sound of horses and ponies, music and fireworks. Less than two hours from Dublin and an hour from Galway city, just off the M8, it’s definitely worth making a detour to experience all the fun of the fair.
Sunday 1st and Monday 2nd
Retired jockey Paul Carberry will officially open the fair on Sunday 1st October. Horse dealers from all over Ireland and Europe congregate on the Fair Green for some serious wheeling and dealing. From Shetland Ponies to Cobs, donkeys to Clydesdales, every make and shape of horse and pony can be bought for the right price. Even if you aren’t in the market yourself, the spectacle of ‘the deal’ if something to behold.
The streets of the town will be closed off and lined with stalls. There will be live music throughout the day on the Sound Stage in St Michael’s Square. You can expect plenty of colourful characters from all walks of life.
The Horse of the Fair and Pony of the Fair competitions take place on Sunday afternoon.
There will be more of the same on Monday 2nd. With plenty of traders and live music from a great selection of local musicians, the town will be buzzing. A highlight of the day is sure to be the inaugural Creagh Galros Connemara Competition. Many of these valuable ponies will someday be making their debut in the RDS or other international horse shows.
On Tuesday Ballinasloe Library are hosting a lovely event, The Seller to the Fair. This is an introduction to the history of ballad sheets and street singing in Ireland. The lecture is free of charge and open to everyone.
Fashionistas on the other hand should head to the Shearwater Hotel on Wednesday evening. Fun, fashion and beauty are on the cards for this fundraising night. All proceeds are going to St John’s Oncology Ward, Crumlin Children’s Hospital and Marks Wish to Walk fund
Friday the 6th sees great action on the streets of the town. Weather permitting there will be a jiving competition in St Michael’s Square on an open air dance floor. Entries will be taken on the night, so wear your dancing shoes. Then, cheer on the local teams in the hotly contested tug-of-war. Down at the Marina the skies will light up for the fireworks display.
Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th
Saturday the 7th is known as Country Fair Day. Once again the Traditional Horse Fair will take over the Fair Green. It’s easy to spend an hour or two on Dunlo Hill which overlooks the Green, surveying the action, and picking your dream horse. There will be lots of free street entertainment. And there will be the best of traditional music on the Sound Stage all-day.
Finally, on Sunday 8th there is a jam packed programme of family friendly events. Beside St Michael’s Church there will be a Food and Craft Fair where you can sample some delicious local produce. Sunday is also the day for the Children’s Arts and Craft Competition.There is also a great Baking competition that’s free to enter. So get your Mini-Paul Hollywood’s and Mini-Mary Berry’s into the kitchen to start practicing! And because every dog has it’s day, at 1pm your pooch can strut their stuff in the Festival Dog Show.
Throughout the weekend there is lots of great entertainment in many of the pubs in the town. We have a comprehensive list here on InspireMe.ie. Also down on Society St there will the the Funfair, or ‘Toffs’ as it’s known locally, to provide lots of thrills and hopefully no spills over the course of the festival.
Horses for courses!
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Finally, all information correct at time of publishing. You should always check with the event organiser before you travel.
Photos by Una Spain