The Great Game Fairs of Ireland

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The Festival

On the weekend of the 24th & 25th September BALLYNAHINCH, Co Down is the place to be

Ballynahinch Harvest and Country Living Festival
Montalto Estate Saturday 24th & Sunday 25th September

Northern Ireland's rich rural traditions and scenic Autumn splendours will be cause for celebration this September at the second Ballynahinch Game & Harvest Festival which is expected to draw more than 15,000 people to the County Down town.

The beautiful Montalto Estate
The beautiful Montalto Estate

Over the weekend of Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 September, for only the second time in decades, the stunning Montalto Estate will be open for a large public event as its extensive grounds become the elegant location for the Game and Harvest Festival. On Saturday 24 September, Ballynahinch town will add its own uniquely historic dimension to the new celebratory 'Fall' festival weekend with a magnificent re-enactment of the famous Battle of Ballynahinch and a programme of country-themed events reminiscent of the traditional Harvest, Pig and Potato Fairs for which the town was once rightly famed. A FREE SHUTTLE BUS SERVICE will run to the fair at Montatalto.

That wonderfully quirky mix of 'Pigs, Potatoes and Pageantry' in town, coupled with a two-day celebration of country sports, pursuits and lifestyles at Montalto, capitalises on the geographic and historic attributes of Ballynahinch, as event organiser Albert Titterington, Director of Country Lifestyle Exhibitions, explains.

"This is a unique festival for a unique town, its twin locations playing to the strengths of the history, heritage and layout of Ballynahinch," he says. "The house at Montalto, originally built in the 1700s by Lord Rawdon, Earl of Moira, has a particularly rich history, encompassing The Battle of Ballynahinch when, in June 1798, the United Irishmen fought government forces on nearby Ednavaddy Hill. Today, the house sits on an estate of 400 acres and it remains largely closed to the general public although available for weddings and private parties. Now for two days only, the gates of this secluded estate will open exclusively for the Ballynahinch Harvest & Country Living Festival.

The event is being backed by Newry, Mourne & Down District Council and TourismNI and will be an integral part of the NI Year of Food and Drink 2016. Albert Titterington who has SIXTY major game fairs to his credit, including the Irish Game Fair & Flavour Fine Food Festival held annually at Shanes Castle in Antrim, and the Irish Game & Country Fair staged at Birr Castle, Co Offaly is confident of its success. He says, "Having been responsible for launching the Game Fair concept in Ireland, I am extremely excited to organise the second edition of this unique twin locus 'Town & Country Festival' - one centred on Ballynahinch and the other on the beautiful Montalto Estate. Our team is really looking forward to planting the seed for a Game & Harvest Festival which will grow for the future, carving a reputation as one of the most distinctive events on Northern Ireland's country calendar."

"Expect to see all that is best in game fairs and country shows set alongside the better things in life that the countryside can offer. This marriage of game fair elements with fine country style and living history will succeed in bringing the Game Fair's regular visitors and patrons together with an upmarket, discerning audience of those who live, work and play in the countryside and those who aspire to embrace the country life - at least for a day or two!

Battle of Ballynahinch brought to life

The beautiful Montalto Estate

The Ballynahinch Game & Harvest Festival at Montalto Estate will bring a packed programme of entertainment:

  • Main Arena entertainment programme drawing from all facets of the fair, including gundog, hounds, horse drawn vehicles, fly casting and falconry displays and demonstrations, living history re-enactments, a Medieval jousting tournament, TV shepherdess Shannon Conn and more.
  • Full Game Fair sporting programme including clay shooting, gundog tests, angling, terrier and lurcher championships and a range of demonstrations and displays. Expect to see attractive prize funds and stiff competition!
  • A country-focused retail exhibition village featuring 100 trade partners , presenting all that's finest in country living
  • Country fashion show.
  • Fine Food Festival bringing together select artisan food and drink producers plus selected suppliers from across Ireland and the UK.
  • Living history re-enactments celebrating the famous Battle of Ballynahinch with skirmishes both in the town, the event's main arena and around the fair, complete with a Living History Village where visitors can interact with combatants and even meet the legendary Betsy Gray - famed as one of the heroines of the battle in the book 'Betsy Gray or Hearts of Down'. These are sponsored by the Ulster Scots Agency.
  • Medieval themed excitement, including a Jousting Tournament, John de Courcy coins minted on site and a Medieval banquet complete with costumed servers, falconer.
  • A theme celebrating harvest and the county way of life with music, arts and crafts displays, bygones with horse drawn threshing and traction engines and themed entertainments and competitions for children including FREE carousel rides.

Launching the 2016 event, Albert Titterington reinforced the potential economic benefits to the town. "I'm delighted to be staging this event in my own home County," he said, "not least because I know that major events have the capacity to make a significant postitive contribution to the economy of a region. This is recognised by the generous support of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Newry, Mourne & Down District Council.

Newry, Mourne and Down Chair Councillor Gillian Fitzpatrick , and Councillors Mark Murnin and Billy Walker join chef Kelan McMichael in the historic Ballynahinch Square to launch the fair.

"Our key attractions have been booked and of course many of our exhibitors from our Game Fairs have already booked exhibition stands, but commercial opportunities are still available for those with quality products and services relevant to the country lifestyle and, for businesses based in the Newry, Mourne & Down District Council area, I am offering a special local discount of 20%. I hope that gesture will encourage local businesses to become part of a weekend which will be great not only for visitors, but also, for the local tourism, hospitality and rural businesses"

Ireland's Real Game Fairs © Ballynahinch Harvest & County Living Festival