Northern Ireland

Balmoral Show 2016: Thousands flock to agricultural extravaganza

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Media captionThe annual Balmoral Show features the best of local livestock competing for prizes

The most important event in Northern Ireland's agricultural calendar - the Balmoral Show - has opened with thousands of people attending.

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Image caption The Balmoral Show dates back 148 years

The three-day extravaganza of farming, food and family fun celebrates many aspects of agricultural life.

The Balmoral Show is run by the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS) and dates back 148 years.

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Image caption The show moved its new home on the site of the former Maze prison in 2013

Last year, it attracted more than 90,000 visitors to its recently-adopted home outside Lisburn in County Antrim.

Image caption The show is being hosted at Balmoral Park for the fourth time

It was traditionally staged at the RUAS's headquarters in south Belfast, but the show moved to a larger venue on the site of the former Maze prison in 2013.

The Maze venue, re-named Balmoral Park, is now hosting the show for the fourth consecutive year.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Last year's show attracted about 90,000 visitors over its three days

The 2016 event coincides with Northern Ireland's Year of Food and Drink, and local produce features prominently in the exhibitions.

Image caption Countless local food producers have gathered at the show

One of this year's highlights is an "edible garden", in which visitors can see their food growing in the ground before it gets to their plates.

The aim of the garden is to encourage people to grow their own food at home.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Sheep shearers get a chance to show their sharp skills at the Balmoral Show

The event will also showcase the best of local livestock, with prized pigs, cattle, poultry and ponies all lining up in bid to be the stars of the show.

Their owners will also get a chance to shine, with horse riding and show jumping displays along with sheep shearing competitions and awards for the best livestock breeders and handlers.

For younger visitors, there is a family fun area hosting displays from the Northern Ireland School of Falconry as well as a gun dog skills demonstration and a performance from balloon artist Bruce Airhead.

BBC News NI are covering the event live on social media on Wednesday on Twitter at @BBCNewsNI, on Snapchat at bbcnewsni, and on BBC Newsline's Facebook page.

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