Mixed response to new-look Ballyclare May Fair

Dennis and Rachel Currie pictured at the May Fair with Cllr Jim Bingham. INNT 21-210-AM
Dennis and Rachel Currie pictured at the May Fair with Cllr Jim Bingham. INNT 21-210-AM

There have been mixed reviews of the revamped Ballyclare May Fair festival, with many people voicing their opinions on social media after events officially got under way yesterday (Tuesday).

This year sees a new-look fair, with a section of amusements now located in the Harrier Way car park, rather than The Square car park in the centre of the town.

Another break from tradition has seen the market stalls moved to the Town Hall car park.

A marquee which specialises in the promotion of locally sourced food and cookery demonstrations has been set up in The Square. This is to coincide with Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink.

The annual horse fair, which used to dominate May Fair Day and see Main Street closed to traffic, was again located in the council’s yard beside the Six Mile River Park.

A number of residents expressed their views about the 2016 fair on Facebook.

Audrey Caldwell said: “I think there is more atmosphere when rides are in The Square. It seemed a bit empty.”

Former May Fair Committee member, Margaret Irwin, added: “Ballyclare folk want their traditional May Fair - amusements in The Square, horses on the street, the stalls round the square as usual with yellow man, honeycomb and fudge, which have all been missing this year. Give us back our basics and improve the rest. We want the atmosphere, the smells, candy floss, the burger vans, the stalls and the crowds.”

Carla Sommerville said: “I am all for the May Fair as it was a big part of my childhood. I have memories of getting all new clothes for May Fair Day as that’s when you met family and friends and enjoyed the atmosphere. I think the council need to hand it back to the people of Ballyclare. The amusements need to come back to The Square and the stalls need to be around The Square.”

John Barons added: “The set up of this year’s fair has been nothing short of calamitous, if not a downright disgrace.

“The focal point of the town on what should be its busiest day of the year, is a shambles. A cookery demonstration in the Town Hall car park? If this subject wasn’t so serious, it would be laughable.”

South Antrim Progressive Unionist Party representative, Scott McDowell, commented: “The amusements need returned to The Square where they’ve always been, the horses should be on the street where they’ve always been and more needs to be done to attract stall owners to the fair. The fair has been a way of life for the people of Ballyclare and further afield for many years and it’s high time the fair was either given the council’s full backing and restored to what it once was, or given back to the people of Ballyclare.”

Darren Black suggested that to improve the attendance on May Fair Day, a change of date should be considered. He said: “Under pressure families and businesses are expected to take another day off in May to treat their families or arrange days off work and child minding. There are two perfectly good Bank Holidays in May that could be used to hold the fair on and perhaps encourage people outside the town to join in.

“I’m pleased to see they tried something different this year. Some liked the change, some won’t like change regardless, but to maintain the fair as a highlight in the calendar, I believe whole heartedly involves pushing the day back to the last Bank Holiday in May.”

Sharon Willis added: “I can hear the fair from my home and the music is pumping and the kids are screaming (I assume on the rides). I haven’t been down, but it sounds pretty festive.”

Defending the May Fair, Cllr David Arthurs said: “The council undertook a survey into how fairs were run across the borough. We made the choice this year to host a food event to coincide with the Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink. This would be done with funding from the Department for Regional Development.

“We spoke to the operator of the amusements and he said he wouldn’t be against moving the amusements out of The Square as it would give him more room. We took the decision to move the amusements to Harrier Way Car Park.

“We operate over one week of the year and we have to look out for the traders in the town. This is why the decision was taken to keep the roads open.”

The UUP representative added: “The five councillors in the Ballyclae DEA have worked tirelessly to keep the May Fair going. A review of the fair is set to take place in June.”

• Let us know what you think of this year’s May Fair. Email your comments to russell.keers@jpress.co.uk