Galleries & Video: Show success defies credit crunch

THERE was little sign of the credit crunch at the Suffolk Showground today as thousands of people flocked to the region's largest agricultural event.

Elliot Furniss

THERE was little sign of the credit crunch at the Suffolk Showground today as thousands of people flocked to the region's largest agricultural event.

The 178th Suffolk Show opened its gates at 7am and deputy show director Bee Kemball said the day had been an overwhelming success, defying the grey skies and drizzle.

The prestigious event saw hundreds of exhibitors and traders promote the very best that the county has to offer and the economic downturn was having minimal impact on the proceedings.

With exhilarating displays from daring stunt motorcyclists and the Jive Pony riders and a range of traditional and rare-breed livestock on show, there was something for everyone to enjoy.

Advance online ticket sales were up 40% on last year and in the build up organisers had been promising “a show that Suffolk would be proud of”.

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As the afternoon drew to a close, Mrs Kemball said she was looking forward to the second day of the annual event.

She said: “People want a day out and there's a feel good-factor with coming to the county show.

“I can't tell if they're spending their money or not, but there are a lot of people here who want a day out with their family.

“When I think of the choice of things you can see and do, I don't think there's a better range of attractions anywhere in the country. “This is showing off the best things about Suffolk. Days like today make you really value the county we live in.”

The show saw independent artists and craftsmen show off their talents alongside sellers of vast agricultural machinery, while elsewhere local restaurants, colleges and entertainers were busy drawing people into the array of marquees on site.

One of the largest of the hundreds of stands lining the busy avenues of the showground belonged to P Tuckwell Ltd, specialists in selling machinery for landscape and agricultural work.

JCB account manager Mark Debenham said tractor sales had remained steady in the past 12 months and the number of other items of machinery being sold was on the up from last year, with the show was a great way to meet new customers.

He said: “The show is more of an exhibiting day now than it used to be, we do still take orders though. The recession has not hit us as hard as the public sector.

“We're not doing too bad but we always want more - but we can't complain.”

Also represented at the show was the National Farmers' Union, which was offering children a chance to find out where their milk came from.

The Union had a marquee for its members and a “food and farming” roadshow stand aimed at giving children the opportunity to milk a pretend cow and speak to dairy farmers.

Regional NFU spokesman Brian Finnerty said the event was a great chance for local food producers to promote themselves and for members to discuss pressing issues.

With about 10,000 people employed in the agricultural trade in Suffolk, the farming business is one of the biggest employers in the county and Mr Finnerty said it would play a major role in the economic recovery.

He said: “The Show is a chance for our members to talk to the public about food and farming. Farming is one of the industries that hasn't been as badly affected (by the credit crunch) as some of the other industries in Suffolk.

“It is an important part of Suffolk and will play an important part in the recovery - we need to make sure we have a really good, profitable farming industry in place that can help the county as it moves out of the recession.”

He said there was increasing interest in locally-produced and sourced food and drink, which was all too evident in the Show's food hall.

He said: “I'm impressed with what I've seen today. All the research shows that there is a growing interest in local food and people really want to know where it's coming from.”

Show executive director Chris Bushby said extra investment in the access roads and infrastructure at the site and a well-prepared team of stewards meant the event could withstand whatever Mother Nature threw at it.

He said: “The team of stewards are all well-skilled in knowing how to put the show on, whatever the conditions.

“People have dressed for the day and weather forecasting has got so much better. Yesterday morning it was pouring and very different to today - but we've not had any problems at all.”

An extra �75,000 has been invested in improving the roads and infrastructure around the Suffolk Showground site and Mr Bushby said after last year's event a series of changes had been made to make this year's show run even more smoothly.

He said: “There were 200 points we needed to take in from last year's show and it's that sort of attention to detail which keeps the show improving.

“The show has been going for 178 years now and we keep reviewing things and looking forward, always making capital investments, like the additional roads.

“I've been out and seen a lot of happy faces and to me that's the success of the show.”

The day was topped-off by a flying visit from a stunning Apache attack helicopter, which landed in the Grand Ring after flying over from RAF Wattisham for the event.

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