The 2012 Great Yorkshire Show was cancelled due to wet weather, and organisers are taking no chances this year.
Reporter Ruby Kitchen went to the Great Yorkshire Show showground to find out what visitors can expect from this year’s event.
Even if it chucks it down for the next two weeks, we will still be alright. The showground’s so dry we are practically having to irrigate it.”
These assurances, from Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS) managing director Heather Parry, mean more than words.
To those who are reliant on the three days of the Great Yorkshire Show for their livelihoods, they are a lifeline.
Last year, the final two days of the country’s premier agricultural event were called off after heavy rain turned car parks into mudbaths and left much of the Harrogate showground impassable.
It was a disaster. Pictures, splashed across the national newspapers, showed distraught business owners giving away their wares for free. Caravans, being towed by tractors through three-foot-tall waves of mud.
And children, making the most of it, sledging down slippery hillsides on land which had been carefully prepared for months to host the biggest event in Yorkshire.
“It was a difficult decision to make but looking back we did the right thing,” said Miss Parry. “I just never want to do that again.
“It wasn’t safe to go on. In our hearts we wanted to, but we just couldn’t. You have to do it right or not at all.”
She said the decision to call off last year’s show was one of the hardest things organisers have ever had to do.
“It was tragic, absolutely,” she said. “It was like a death in the family.
“We’ve always been lucky I suppose, with the weather, but last year it was just awful. It rained steadily from about Easter.
“We became obsessed with the weather forecast. I would change channel to find the best one - the BBC’s Countryfile was the most positive.
“The farmers rallied around us. They understood, because they’ve been through it themselves with the weather. But from the staff to the exhibitors, it was horrific.”
The Great Yorkshire Show, to be held from July 9 to 11 this year, will see 5,000 animals competing for championship prizes.
There will be top class show jumping, a mock battle staged by the Yorkshire Regiment, and displays by The White Helmets and The Royal Signals’ Motor Cycle Display Team.
There will be an extensive food hall and around 1,200 stalls selling everything from combine harvesters to designer clothes and country skills demonstrations.
And, as Miss Parry says, it
is the biggest and most important event in the farming calendar.
“This is first and foremost a farming show,” she said. “These are real tractors for sale.”
Not only is the show important in agricultural circles but new figures, released by organisers after months of research, now show on paper just how vital this three-day showcase is to the region’s economy.
Every year, an economic impact survey has shown, the show brings around £15.6m to the area.
Wider YAS events at the showground, the survey revealed, bring £35m to Harrogate and £47m to Yorkshire.
These include weddings, school conferences, the Autumn and Spring Flower Show and even the Christmas Craft Fair.
From hotel rooms for wedding guests to restaurants for school conference attendees, taxi fares and menu printing, the opportunities are endless.
And as a result, the pressures on the show team, to get everything just right, have been enormous.
“We’ve thrown money at it, half a million pounds,” said Miss Parry. “We’ve got more space, even if one car-parking area is absolutely rained out, it will be fine.”
Land has been bought at Rudding Park, to extend the car parks with 5,000 extra spaces, and a new bridge installed to cross Crimple Beck.
Crowds of visitors will be brought to the showground by a tractor and trailer park-and-ride system, car parks have been sub-soiled and 13,000 tonnes of stone placed to improve roads and gateways.
And the feeling in Harrogate, said Miss Parry, is one of support, of people pulling together to make the show a success.
“The buzz this year is amazing already,” she said. “People are more interested, I think we will be getting record attendances.
“We are an events town. And that’s when Harrogate comes out at its best, when we all work together.”
The Great Yorkshire Show takes place from July 9-11. Tickets are on sale at the website www.greatyorkshireshow.co.uk, at the Yorkshire Agricultural Society offices, Fodder, Morrisons stores and tourist information offices.
Great Yorkshire Show facts
An expected 130,000 visitors will come to Harrogate over three days in July for the Great Yorkshire Show.
£35m is added to Harrogate economy every year through events at the Showground.
£15.6m (around a third of what is brought to the region) comes directly from the Great Yorkshire Show.
4,000 farming caravans will come to the Great Yorkshire Show, and around 45,000 cars.
87 per cent of square footage at the Showground is dedicated to farming. The remaining 13 per cent is food, clothes, and crafts.
Half a million pounds has been spent this year on improving car parking for the Great Yorkshire Show.
An extra 5,000 car parking spaces have been created, and 13 tonnes of stone have been used to improve roads.
The showground extends over 170 acres, 170 of which are set aside for car parking.
Last year’s cancellation cost the Yorkshire Agricultural Society around £2m.
The showground supports the equivalent of 550 jobs full-time jobs.
An average of 422,000 visitors visit the Showground every year, which hosts around 582 events.
The Yorkshire Agricultural Society spends £5m a year, mainly with local businesses.
See this Thursday’s Harrogate Advertiser for a full preview of the 2013 show