2008 show 'better than ever'

VIDEO Organisers have declared this year's Suffolk Show a resounding success.

Russell Claydon

ORGANISERS have declared this year's Suffolk Show a resounding success, saying the two-day event had been bigger and better than ever before.

More than 85,000 people are thought to have been through the gates of Trinity Park for the biggest event in the county's social calendar.

The final day of the show began in sunshine and attracted even higher numbers of visitors than Wednesday, forcing stewards to resort to using their bowler hats to collect entrance fees.

Rain fell in the closing hours of the event but could not take the shine of what organisers said was an absolute success.

Peter Over, honorary director of the show, said he was “delighted” with the show considering the bad weather at the weekend and ominous weather forecasts.

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“I think it is better than we ever expected considering the appalling weather we had at the weekend.

“This was largely due to a fantastic team effort from 400 stewards and staff at the show.

“The indications of numbers are promising and at one point today our cash stiles were so busy we had to bring in more staff who had to use their bowler hats to put money in.

“It looks to be a very good crowd and we should be hitting 85-86,000, which we will be delighted with.

“We have been very lucky with the weather and I think if we had had the rain we had on Bank Holiday Monday and the wind the show would have been in serious jeopardy.”

He added: “We are very proud of the sheep and cattle numbers. Eight months ago we thought we would have no livestock here at all due to bluetongue disease but we have had a very good representation.”

Despite the outbreak of bluetongue in September, and with some restriction zones still in place, there were record numbers in some livestock categories with 670 livestock and equine classes competing for £70,000 in prize money in the 177th show hosted by the Suffolk Agricultural Association.

The trade stands also offered plenty to keep the crowds busy, with 100 more added to this year's event, bringing the total to 700.

Alastair Kerr, the honorary deputy director at the event, said the show continued to successfully link visitors to the county's best brands.

Highlights in the show's two premier rings yesterday included daredevil antics from the X-Treme Motorcross Team, acrobatics on ponies, a parade of hounds and top-class show jumping.

The first day of the event had seen the first ever appearance in Suffolk by the famous Metropolitan police horses known as Equimax, who wowed crowds by jumped through rings of fire.

The Duchess of Gloucester gave the event the Royal seal of approval as she sampled the best of the county's mouth-watering produce before giving out long serving awards to farmers. Supermodel Claudia Schiffer added some catwalk glamour to proceedings.

Yesterday saw sunglasses swapped for brollies as heavy rain fell in the final hours of the event but it failed to take the shine off the spectacle.

Visitors to the show said they would continue to come back to the annual event and felt proud it had retained its traditional agricultural roots.

Gail Turner, from Bury St Edmunds, said: “It is a good educational day out for our children. They have been looking at the tractors and combines as well as learning about the environment and recycling, which is very important.”

Elspeth Devitt, from Bildeston, bought her grandchildren, who live in Newcastle, along to the show.

“We just love the atmosphere. There is so much to see and do,” she said.

“The children really enjoyed the moto-cross show and also the Metropolitan Police horses. It is a good family day out and there is something for all ages.”

Celia Gordon and her husband from Shelley, near Hadleigh, had displayed a basket stall for 25 years but enjoyed taking in the event as visitors yesterday.

She said: “It is nice to see the Suffolk Show has not become a car display ground and has been kept as a rural show.

“It is very well organised and the showground is really well looked after.”

David Scott, a steward and arable farmer who is a member of the show's organising group, paid tribute to the region's farmers and public in the wake of testing times following the bluetongue disease outbreak.

“There was a stage when we were very worried but a lot of livestock farmers responded by filling all the classes and bringing a lot of animals to which we are very grateful.”

Some visitors faced lengthy delays as they tried to leave the show by car, with all roads near the showground congested, but police said the problems had cleared by 7pm.