Monday dawned a gorgeous sunny day and Stradbally Hall opened its beautiful gates to invite the crowds into the long anticipated annual event dating back to 1965- The Stradbally Steam Rally. In the few days leading up to the rally, these large steam engines slowly meandered through town along the Stradbally road as they made their way to their destination. Long lines of traffic impatiently waited to go about their day but it looked as if the conductors/farmers were enjoying the drive as they showed off their impressive machines.
We were directed to take the road to Ratheniska to gain entrance to the parking area. This was exciting for me as it led into a back road of the Stradbally Hall manor estate that I didn’t know existed, even though I have been on grounds many times. The wooded area was beautiful and boasted of many trails I would someday love to explore.
Parking attendants directed us to a field and then up to the ticket stand where we paid a tenner (€10 per person), kids were free, then received armbands so we could come and go. I must admit, it was a bit smaller than I expected at first, the fenced in area that included all the events was only a small portion of the estate. However, with kids that needed to go down for naps, in the end there was more than we could explore in the few hours we were there.
The kids had fun jumping on the bouncy castles that were set up near the entrance, next to the food booths. Though it was posted they could play for only 15 minutes, the kind attendant allowed the kids to play for at least thirty, which I felt was very good value for the €2 per child rate.
Pony rides, roller coasters and carnival rides were available for kids and adults alike. We passed those by in favour of following the mini steam engines around the grounds. I was told you could pay to catch a ride on one of the medium sized steam engines that circled the area. Also on the grounds were many food vendors and shopping tents.
A blacksmith worked over hot coals as he fashioned steel hooks and tools in front of our eyes. It was amazing to see how quickly and skilfully he turned simple pieces of steel into ornate hooks, knobs, horse shoes and other useful items. A crowd gathered round to be entertained.
Horses raced around poles as their riders captured the buckets. In one of the more skilful races, the young riders mounted while the horses raced at a high speed.
The steam engines themselves varied in so many different shapes and sizes. Some grand ones sparkled with their new polish and brass badges as they hummed and purred while coal was shovelled into their bellies. Other ones were rusty and showed a bit of ware from the hard work they have accomplished. There were short ones, skinny ones, fat ones and even miniatures that looked made for a four-year-old’s play. We wondered at their particular usage? Steam engines dating prior to the 1930’s lined up to participate in a parade. Some tooted their horns as they paraded by. The air was pungent with billows of dark smoke spiralling from the steam stacks.
It was a lovely day for a family outing and much recommended for those of you who would like a local event that is good for all ages. A bit of something for everyone.