The heart of the Kildare County Show is Athy. Leinster Street to be precise, where the toy tractors and miniature Massey Fergusons line the window. Community spirit is a great driver - behind every event is a loyal committee, and that’s most evident in this annual show.
It attracts 12,000 people from across the county and has been running for decades. It will take place at the Athy Showground next Sunday, June 19.
“People see the sign, the window. They come in have a chat. They pick up the schedule for the art and craft,” explained office worker Joyce Byrne. “I’ve been in the hub here non-stop for three weeks now. I’m the go-to woman. I married into it,” she joked.
The schedule this year is jammed packed. “The Kildare Civil Defence are always involved. We have the Fire Brigade as well with demonstrations. There will be archery, African Drumming. the Castlemitchell Pipeband. We have a willow maker, sheep displays, children entertainment,” Mrs Byrne explained.
“There is piles of stuff going on. A thatcher is coming in, thatching the roof and auction it off on the day. It’s something interesting and different.
“We are having wood sculptors coming in and doing different sculptures which will be a great crowd pleaser.
“[There will also be] the faithful David Brown tractors and vintage cars and all the stalls. Slides, bouncing castles, army vehicles... There is just so much. It’s going to be great fun. It’s going to be a lot bigger than last year.”
There has been a huge response to the committee’s Volunteer of the Year Award and the Local Hero Awards. “We have people from all over the county applying, a huge response and a good variety of people as well, people from local charities, people who are volunteers for 35 years, the scouts, things like that, all sorts of people. It’s going to be impossible to choose a winner.”
One of the most competitive line-ups every year is the dog show. “We’ve had huge interest in the dog show. You enter that on the day.”
There is also tight competition on the produce stands. Mrs Byrne remained tight-lipped on criteria and taste buds! “Our judges have very high quality taste, they know their facts, what they are looking for, very experienced, the sponge has to be light and fluffy. They accept everything though.”
In the crafts, Mrs Byrne has seen everything from “towns made out of toilet rolls to pasta looking like the leaning tower of Pisa”. “The more imagination put in the better”, she said. Will she enter some produce? “No. I won’t have time between now and then. Also it might be a bit unfair of me now, an upper hand seing as I’m known well,” she joked.
The Kildare County Show is very much a family day out and at E5 for an adult and kids free, it is very affordable. “It’s all volunteers, everyone’s in and gives their time willingly,” Mrs Byrne explained. “The community know that and they like giving back, supporting a group of people who are doing this and celebrating and having fun.”
“People volunteer because they have an interest in their town and community and give something to it. It’s good fun to mix with people that you wouldn’t usually mix with. Interesting and fun and the sun is going to shine. And if not, we’ll splash around in our wellies.”
Teresa McKenna has been involved with the Kildare County Show for 15 years. “I came on as secretary. I was told I would just take a few phone calls, write a couple of letters. It was was a baptism of fire. I’ll never forget it. I thought a limousine was a car, no idea of the names of sheep and cattle. And I got hooked then, a wonderful committee. 50 to 60 people are on the committee and it changes every year. There are a core group of people and they could stand on their heads for you,” she said with pride.
“The whole point of the show is that your pot of jam is as important as your Connemara Pony. It’s a great day out. The whole buzz coming up to it is electrifying.”
So that’s it, The Kildare County Show is back, bigger and better. Mark it in your diary, June 19.