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Suffolk Show organisers bid for turnaround in fortunes

PUBLISHED: 15:23 25 February 2014 | UPDATED: 15:23 25 February 2014

Suffolk Agricultural Society AGM at Trinity Park, Ipswich.  Left to right, Terry Hunt, Stephen Cobbald, Christopher Bushby, Bill Baker, Mike Warner, Robert Rous, Lady Clare Euston.

Suffolk Agricultural Society AGM at Trinity Park, Ipswich. Left to right, Terry Hunt, Stephen Cobbald, Christopher Bushby, Bill Baker, Mike Warner, Robert Rous, Lady Clare Euston.

Organisers of the Suffolk Show are pinning their hopes on a warm end to May after two years of poor weather dented their long-term plans to make the flagship county event close to break-even.

Members of the Suffolk Agricultural Association (SAA), gathered yesterday for their annual general meeting, heard that takings at the gate suffered considerably last year after show-goers were put off by chilly weather, piling the misery on after bad weather halted the 2012 show. Difficult economic conditions also took their toll.

But this year, the organisation, which underwrites the event, is hoping for a turnaround in fortunes.

It plans to entice more and bigger families and their friends, taking fuller advantage of demand for half term activities for youngsters.

Although adults will pay more, children aged five to 14, who previously had to pay £4 in advance or £5 on the day, will be allowed in for free.

Fifteen to 18-year-olds will pay £5 in advance or £10 at the gate. The advance £40 family ticket for two adults and two children goes, but while adult early birds will pay £20 instead of £18 this year, this means larger families or families and their young friends will benefit from cheaper entry overall.

However, families of four taking a car to the event will pay extra as the parking charge of £4 was previously included in the family ticket.

“We want to be a lot more family-friendly,” said executive director Chris Bushby. “We felt on balance it was providing an opportunity for everyone to come to the show and making it more affordable.”

Attendance at the 2013 event was down by about 10,000 on expectations over the two days, compounding the effects of the previous year, when dangerously high winds resulted in the shock cancellation of the second day of the two-day event.

Despite the setback, the ‘business’ end of last year’s event went well, with tradestand spaces well subscribed, sponsorship at a record high and livestock entries strengthened.

The Countess of Euston was elected president of the 2014 Show at yesterday’s AGM, and East Anglian Daily Times editor Terry Hunt made SAA history when he became the first editor to be voted in as president-elect.

Outgoing president Stephen Cobbald, who nominated Mr Hunt, said his year in post had been “wonderful”.

“I always think about the show it’s a bit like farming - it’s weather-dependent,” he said. “I think we had a wonderful show last year.”

This Saturday’s County Life pages in the EADT will be offering extended coverage of yesterday’s AGM.

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