Fairs and outdoor markets, once a common feature of Irish cities and towns, continue to play an important role in the commercial life of the Irish. Fair Day became an integral part of city life ever since 1204 when a 9-day Fair was granted to the city of Waterford by King John which was to be held on Lammas Day and for 8 days thereafter. Fairs and markets have always brought people from different social backgrounds together and play an important part in the development of rural as well as urban society. People from the rural areas bring their produce to the city and city folk come to the fairs and markets to buy from them.
The Irish Game & County Fair
After being held at Birr Castle, Co Offaly for ten very successful years, the fair is moving on the 24th August 2019 to a larger location in the Irish Midlands. Simply known as The Fair, it is one of two Great Game Fairs of Ireland. Its partner fair, the Irish Game Fair and Country Lifestyle Festival is held at Shanes Castle and both fairs deliver events with a wide family appeal for those living in the Irish countryside or those who love to visit and play there.
Tattersalls International Horse Trials & Country Fair at Ratoath, Co Meath
You don’t have to be interested in all things equestrian to enjoy this 3-day fair, though it does draw large crowds of horse lovers. This family-friendly event, one of the biggest of its kind, combines equestrian events with a classic Irish county fair. International and home eventers compete in show-jumping, dressage, and cross country events where occasional Olympic-standard work can be seen. A variety of novelty dog shows, Victorian-style funfair rides, and vintage swing boats creates a carnival atmosphere for anyone looking for a relaxed weekend of entertainment. The Tatts has long been a big tourist drawcard but is gaining popularity with the home crowd as well.
Antique and Vintage Fairs
Hundreds of antique and vintage fairs are held year round all over the country. At these typical Irish fairs, you can enjoy bargain hunting, discover a ‘rare find’ for your collection, shop for vintage fashion and jewelry, and source attractive but inexpensive pieces for your home.
The National Country Fair
This great outdoors fair boasts a mix of equestrian, fishing, gundog, and shooting events that form an ode to Irish Country living. Visitors can enjoy an antique fair, a crafts fair featuring local artists, and an artisan food festival featuring local food producers.
This is where you can satisfy your curiosity about clay pigeon shooting, archery, and ferret racing. Animal lovers will enjoy the pet exhibits and everyone loves the flying bird shows. Enjoy live music in a traditional beer tent and sample a taste of the famous Borris lamb. The National Fair is always brimful of amusements like air shows, vintage vehicles, an Irish Strongman Challenge, and more than 200 trade stalls where you can shop until you drop.
A Bit of Irish Fair History
Situated in the most historic and oldest part of Waterford City, Balllybricken was once the center of the livestock and bacon curing industry. At one time there were 5 bacon factories in the area, but today there are none. The Ballybricken fair was a colorful and busy event that brought the countryside to the city once a month. Farmers walked their horses and cattle from ten miles away and drove their poultry and pigs in a cart to arrive at the market at 5 am.
Pigs and sheep were assembled in Mayor’s Walk, cattle in the Ballybricken Square, donkeys on Yellow Road, and horses in Wellington Street. Live turkeys were sold at Christmas time in Jail Street. People would trade livestock and browse until the fair closed at 3.30 pm and gardeners would pick up the animal droppings afterward for use as fertilizer. After the fair closed, council workers would come to hose down the square with jets of water.
The most important fair in Ballybricken was the May Fair, also known as the hiring fair, where employment seekers came to be hired by farmers for a season. Another popular fair was the Onion Fair or October Fair where onion stalls were set up right down to Patrick Street.
These fairs turned Ballybricken into a thriving part of Waterford City, but they have all now become just a nostalgic remembrance.
Belfast Markets Area – St George’s Market
Ross [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
In Belfast, the Markets area holds two markets each week, one on Friday, the other on Saturday. The Friday market tends to sell more goods, the Saturday market is more of a Farmers’ market. On Saturday, there is often live music and on either day, you can get something to eat and drink, whether in your hand or sit down. You can wander round looking at hand-produced items, antiques, collectibles and souvenirs, as well as fresh food items you may not get elsewhere.