Preparations for the 2021 National Ploughing Championships are under way at the National Ploughing Association (NPA) headquarters as it plots a post-COVID-19 return.
The championships, along with the associated exhibition, which attracted almost 300,000 visitors when it was last held in 2019, are due to return Ratheniska, Co Laois, from 15 to 18 September 2021.
“It’s early days yet, but we’ve started the ball rolling again,” NPA assistant managing director Anna Marie McHugh told the Irish Farmers Journal.
“You have to try to be positive and plan as if it’s going ahead.”
The NPA plans to open for bookings from exhibitors from mid-March in the hope the event can go ahead in the autumn.
“The reaction from the exhibitors is that they’re hungry to get out and do business, but we’re also getting the reaction that we don’t want to do anything that is not the right thing to do."
McHugh stressed there was an abundance of caution in planning the event: “It will only be taking place strictly under Government guidelines, if possible. We’re certainly not going to be pushing against Government regulations."
She said the question has been posed as to whether it could be run as a reduced event.
However, even at half capacity, some 50,000 attendees would be expected. At quarter capacity, 25,000 was still a sizeable crowd.
“It has to be feasible for exhibitors to commit to a trade show for four days, there’s a lot tied in to having a stand,” McHugh said.
If the event is cancelled again, it has been confirmed that it will remain in Laois for 2022, allowing plans laid this year to be rolled over.
If such a cancellation is required it will occur in three stages – first the exhibition, which attracts the large crowd, then the world ploughing championship, and finally the national championship.