Suffolk Show: First day of show a ‘great success story’
PUBLISHED: 18:59 28 May 2014 | UPDATED: 11:43 29 May 2014
The first day of the Suffolk Show was a “great success story”, the show’s director declared last night, as he paid tribute to the army of volunteers who battled against torrential downpours which threatened to cancel the event.
Despite a poor weather forecast, thousands of people donned their wellies and gathered at Trinity Park yesterday for the opening day of the annual celebration of agriculture and farming.
Although official visitor numbers were not released, Bill Baker, the Suffolk Show director who farms in Elmswell, admitted he was “absolutely thrilled” with the attendance. An expected 90,000 crowd was anticipated over the two days, with Prince Harry’s royal visit today likely to increase ticket sales.
“It has been a great success story – beyond my wildest expectations,” Mr Baker said. “When the rain was beating down, I knew we had a great show but I was not sure how well it would be supported. However, I was absolutely thrilled by the turnout.
“It was a challenge. Workers came in at 4am to carry out emergency repairs. Two tanks sucked out the water to recover the ground – it was like a huge sponge. They showed a lot of dedication and hard work. I can’t speak highly enough of them.
“I think 90% of shows would have closed but knowing the powers of recovery we have it was never in doubt. We are very lucky and very blessed to have this site.”
The Suffolk Show, worth between £20-30 million to the county’s economy, is designed to highlight the importance of the agriculture industry, valued at £9.6 billion in Suffolk. Mr Baker said his personal highlights were seeing “smiling, relaxed faces in enjoyable temperatures” and the “success” of the new Farm Discovery Zone.
“With free entry for under 14s, making it affordable for families, it helps us engage the next generation with agriculture,” he said.
Prince Harry is today set to become the 30th member of the Royal Family to plant a tree at the Suffolk Show, now in its 183rd year.
“Everyone is very excited,” Mr Baker added. “It is a great honour for us and for the county. Princess Diana’ visit in 1986 was very popular and (today) will too.”
Across the 120 acres on site snapped up by some 1,200 companies, activities ranged from Top Gear experiences in 3D simulators and visiting the Food Hall to watching an impressive gun dog demonstration and having a daring turn on the merry-go-round.
Liam Ramsey, 43, an Ipswich estate agent based in Ipswich visited with his son Ewan, eight.
“It is important to maintain the agriculture heritage of Suffolk,” he said. “It is a fantastic event. Where else can you by a car, equipment for your garden or livestock?
“It is a tradition of Suffolk and I think it is important to maintain our identity, as it can easily be lost.”
He also said he had to queue up in the morning for the first time in a “few years”,
Meanwhile, in the Church of England tent, football freestyler Dan Magness broke his own Guinness world record by completing 555 consecutive touches of a football using only his shoulders. He pledged to break the 600 barrier today.
The Rt Rev Dr David Thomson, acting Bishop for the Church of England in Suffolk, said the Suffolk Show brings together people from “many places and backgrounds”.
Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore praised a “great atmosphere”.
Stefan Overbury, of The Chocolate Fondue Company, said he was aiming to recover after making “a loss” at the 2014 Devon County Show when the third and final day was cancelled due to safety concerns.
Richard Adams, of The Cheese & Pie Man, set up his stall on Tuesday and arrived at 6.30am yesterday.
“It is just nice to see everyone come together,” he said.
Among the crowds was former Suffolk Show director Bernard Adams, a retired Felixstowe farmer watching on with his son John.
“They have done a great job again this year,” he said.
“I have been to every one since 1946. The one year I missed was because of a wedding in Scotland. However, they broke up a few months later.”