During the first weekend in October, the Ballinasloe Horse Fair is an event that anyone involved with horses attends. Ballinasloe is the oldest and largest horse fair in all of Europe, dating back to the 17th century. The fair is held annually in the town of… you guessed it: Ballinasloe, the second largest town in County Galway. The fair is one of the most important social and economic events in the town. Welcoming up to 80,000 visitors for all over the globe, events include live music, an equestrian parade, street entertainment, soap box racing, a firework display, street tug of war and a craft market.
Being a yearly tradition, my family asked me to come with them to see what happened at the horse fair. My host father and brother left bright and early at 9:00 A.M. on Sunday morning while my host mother, sister and I did not join them until later in the afternoon. When we first arrived at the fair, I was amazed at how many cars were there. Not only cars, but giant buses that carried multiple horses, and many horse trailers attached to the back of vehicles, all pilled on the sidewalk to find parking places. Once we finally found a place to put the car and starting heading towards the actual fair, my excitement grew as I waited in anticipation to see what all the talk was about when it came to this horse fair. When the walking came to an end, I looked over the edge of a stone wall to see a huge open valley filled to the horizon with horses.
As my host mother, sister and I walked down to try and meet up with the rest of the family, I was able to get a closer look at all the animals that were up for sale. There were horses big and small, mothers with foals and miniature horses that were only knee high. I even spotted a donkey or two in the field. Every single open space was filled with a horse or a person. Some horses had riders, some with saddles, some with just ropes around their head to keep them from running off. While many were secure to a firm hand of an owner or one of the rare trees in the valley, a couple horses were able to get free. One humorous scene was when a small pony that was no taller than my knee, bobbing and weaving through the field with a little kids on his tail trying to catch him.
When we finally found our way to my host father and brother, all the kids toke me around the fair to show me what there was to do. There were a couple sketchy carnival rides and a ton of street side vendors that offered things from small toy horses to winter coats. There was also a band warming up on the stage downtown, but I did not stick around to see what type of music they played.
After everything to see was seen, we all headed back to where the rest of the family was to say our goodbyes before we left. Ballinasloe was a one of a kind event that I am sure I will never see the likes of again. With only a few sprinkles of rain and mostly sunny skies overhead, I had yet another spectacular day with my host family.