Volunteers are at the heart of one of Europe’s oldest and largest horse fairs — the Ballinasloe Agricultural Horse Show — that dates back to the 18th century.
Up to 60 volunteers are working behind the scenes – and on race day — to ensure the Galway show runs smoothly, including Show Secretary John Harney who has been involved at Ballinasloe for the past 55 years.
“I got into it when I was very young and was inspired by a great teacher I had. He had been involved in the show all his life and got me interested in it,” says John.
Up to 80,000 visitors from all over the world attend the nine-day fair, which is one of the most important social and economic events for Ballinasloe, a town steeped in equine history and renowned for horse and pony riding, show jumping and other equestrian activities throughout the year.
“On the first Sunday of October, we would typically get 60,000 people in the town on that one day. But the event is for everyone from horse lovers and international and national show jumpers to locals and families looking for a fun day out,” says John.
In 2014, the show received €25,000 from the National Lottery good causes fund, which the committee spent on a new set of jumps for the showgrounds and even built a new shed in which to store them.
“The old jumps were really unsuitable and we really needed these new ones, which we hope will last us for years. As a result of getting the new jumps, we have been able to attract more international and national showjumpers, including those of a higher calibre, to the show,” says John.
After 55 years volunteering, John has no intention of stepping down anytime soon. “We have a good few people who have been volunteering for the past 40 years and every year we try to get new blood in. We are from all walks of lives – from professionals and locals to students and farmers.”
Approximately 30 cent of every €1 spent on National Lottery games go back to funding for Good Causes in the areas of sport, youth, health, welfare, education, arts and heritage. In total, more than €5 Billion has been raised for Good Causes since the National Lottery was established 30 years ago. In 2016 alone, the National Lottery raised over €210 million for such good causes.