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THE first racing festival held in Ballybrit was a two-day event with the first race meeting on Tuesday, August 17, 1869.

Contemporary records show that a staggering 40,000 people turned up to attend the race meeting.

To cater for the crowds who arrived into the city in the lead up to the festival, the public park area in Eyre Square was set up as a campsite.

The Chairman of the Stewards at the race meeting was Lord St. Lawrence, then MP for Galway and a main contributor to Punchestown racecourse.

His fellow stewards were also involved in the tradition of hunting and steeple chasing - men like the Marquis of Clanricard, Lord Claremorris, Captain Blake Forster, Henry S. Persse, Pierce Joyce, George Morris and Valentine Black.

The Galway Races had been born and it was set to grow and grow.

The visit of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Galway on September 30, 1979, is one of the most memorable moments in the history of Galway and indeed the racecourse in Ballybrit.

It is estimated that 280,000 people flocked to Ballybrit to enjoy the papal visit.

There were 77 concelebrants, 200,000 communicants with 800 priests distributing communion and 4,000 stewards.

There was a great air of expectation, excitement and calm amongst the 280,000 crowd awaiting the arrival on the papal helicopter.

In over 100 years of racing at Ballybrit, the Galway Races has gone from strength to strength with now in excess of 150,000 poeple attending the week long festival every year.

Recognised as the greatest mid-summer festival in Ireland, punters from all over the world visit the famous race track year after year for a great mixture of racing and old Irish craic.


GREATEST DAY The visit of Pope John Paul II
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Jul 29, 2013
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