Northern Ireland

Balmoral Show 2017: All you need to know

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Media captionBBC News NI will be at the Balmoral Show - tell us what you would like to see

With everything from tractors to texels, music to milking, fun-fairs to food, Northern Ireland's agricultural extravaganza is upon us again.

The annual Balmoral Show draws tens of thousands of people - townies and country folk alike.

And 2017 could see even more people through its gates because the event is running across four days, rather than the usual three.

Here's our spectator's guide, offering you everything you need to know for a grand day out at the show!

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Image caption Friesian love... you can't keep this young fella and his coveted calf apart

When and where

The show begins on Wednesday morning and continues through until Saturday evening, starting at 09:30 BST each day and closing at 18:00 (20:00 on Thursday).

Balmoral Park, near Lisburn in County Antrim, has been the venue for one of the most important events in Northern Ireland's agricultural year since its move from the King's Hall complex in Belfast in 2013.

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Image caption Hard to beat a sit-down after a bumpy ride to the show on a wee grey Fergie

Getting there

Last year, visitors complained about delays of several hours to get out of car parks, so the organisers are encouraging people to use public transport.

Shuttle buses will operate between Lisburn train station and the showgrounds between 09:00 and 18:20 each day (20:20 on Thursday).

If you do choose to take the car, there's free car parking available at the King's Hall in Belfast, with a train service to Lisburn just a short walk away.

Details of services to the show are available on Translink's website, and the public transport operator says people should plan ahead and leave extra time for their journeys.

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Image caption Want to avoid the traffic queues heading for the show? Go airborne... if you have the nerve

You can park at the Balmoral Park site, too - it's £7 for a car and £12 for a bus.

The organisers have decided to start the show at 09:30 to avoid visitor traffic clashing with the morning rush-hour.

They say the show will be "very busy", as ever, and they've used computer-modelling to come up with a traffic management plan for the four days.

Their advice? Buy your tickets in advance and get there early.

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Image caption Don't let the youngsters behind the wheel if you want to get to the show on time

Getting in

If you book ahead, you'll get a discount.

Pre-show tickets cost £15 for adults; £9 for 12 to 17-year-olds; £11 for over-65s; £2 for children aged between 5 and 11; under-five's get in for free.

You will get in if you turn up without a ticket, but on-the-door prices will be £3 more than the pre-show bookings, or £1 more for children aged between five and 11.

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Image caption Steady on! Some of those at the show can get a little bit too excited by it all...

What to do

What ISN'T there to do, more like...

Once you're in, you have the freedom to roam virtually the entire grounds.

All of the demonstrations, exhibitions, grandstand seating and entertainment are open and there for you to take in at your leisure.

Among the highlights over the last couple of years was the live robotic milking display and it returns to give visitors an insight into the delights of the dairy farmer's twice-daily duty.

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Image caption You're shear (sorry!) to have a good time at Balmoral, says this laid-back sheep

More than 700 trade stands will be displaying their wares, from brand new farm and plant machinery to all sorts of arts and crafts.

Then there's Young Farmers' Club day on Thursday, with members showing their machinery handling and tug-of-war skills, along with endless other activities, agricultural and otherwise.

Feeling peckish? Then you'll want to make your way to the food pavilion, where more than 90 food and drinks companies will offer tasters of their finest produce.

For the youngsters, the children's farm is a must-see, and the fun-fair and the donkey displays are sure to keep them happy, as well as daredevil stunt riders on quad bikes for a bit of a thrill.

And, of course, there are the livestock competitions taking place across all four days - cattle, horses, goats, pigs and sheep will all be strutting their stuff in the hope of taking home a nice big rosette!

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Image caption It's showtime again and that's got some of us jumping for joy

Watching the weather

Ah, yes, the all-important question - will there be sunshine, showers or will we need the welly boots?

Thankfully, the weather's looking good for the first two days, but it might get wet on Friday.

Here's the full forecast for you...

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Media captionThe latest forecast for Northern Ireland

And one more thing...

Leave the dog at home.

The show operates a strict no pooches policy, for the safety of both you and your four-legged friend.

Instead, make sure to pick up a meaty treat when you're browsing the taster stands to take home for Fifi or Fido!

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