The council has defended the 2016 Ballyclare May Fair following stinging criticism from local residents who branded this year’s event “a shambles”.
The local authority will carry out a full assessment of the fair in the coming weeks as part of a wider review of council-backed festivals across the borough.
This year’s Food Glorious Food-themed May Fair, which ran from May 24 - 30, received £21,000 of council funding, as well as £18,000 from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ulster Scots Agency.
The 2016 festival has received mixed feedback from local people, with many criticising the revamped layout, activities and attractions.
Dozens of people took to social media to hit out at various aspects of the new-look fair, particularly the decision to move the amusements out of The Square to make way for a marquee for food-themed events.
One resident said: “This has to be the worst May Fair in all the time it has been running. The council needs to be ashamed after letting it get to this standard.”
Another said: “I’ve been attending the fair for over 50 years and I can honestly say that this year is the worst May Fair that I’ve ever seen. It’s a long standing tradition which has had its good and bad years, but I can honestly say that in the last few years apart from the moving of the horses from Main Street it was making positive progress each year.”
The Times was contacted by a resident, who claimed that after checking the details for the events that were set to run on Monday, May 30, when they arrived at the fair, they were not yet running. She said: “I checked the details online and saw that the fair was set run from 12pm until 5pm on the bank holiday. When I got down to the town centre with my grandchildren, we discovered that it was not starting until 2.30pm. The amusements also ended much earlier than advertised. The children were disappointed and I don’t understand the discrepancy in times, especially for those coming some distance.”
But not everyone was disappointed with this year’s fair, and one happy customer contacted the Times, saying: “You can never please everyone, especially not the ones with inflexible expectations. No matter what moaners say, a lot of people enjoyed the fair, they just cannot be bothered to let it be known.”
Another said: “My 10-year-old son and I had a good time at the fair. I liked the idea of food around The Square and seats for people to sit. Well done to all the organisers for trying to make positive changes and please a lot of people, all with different opinions.”
Cllr Vera McWilliam said she had received “a lot of positive feedback” from people in the town, but added: “Lessons will be learnt from this year’s fair. When the review into fairs and festivals is held, we will discuss ways to improve the fair for future years. All in all the fair was a success, with residents thanking us for organising an enjoyable programme of events.”
Defending this year’s fair and the range of activities and attractions on offer, a council spokeswoman said: “Those who attended the fair had the opportunity to enjoy a range of free family fun activities as well as craft and food stalls and the traditional horse-trading fair and Mayor’s Parade. Music lovers had their pick from a range of Ulster Scots, modern and traditional music performances from local artists.
“As part of the Food Glorious Food theme, there were lots of useful tips on growing and cooking your own food from celebrity chefs and nutritional experts at the Local and Sustainable Food Fair. As with all events, council will carry out a post event review of the May Fair in the coming weeks.”
See this week’s Times for more coverage of the May Fair, on sale now.