Christmas Fair wins favour
Published:  08 December, 2006

The Royal Smithfield Christmas Fair exceeded virtually all expectations at the weekend by attracting more than 15,000 visitors to the Bath & West Showground in Somerset.

The Fair, which was put together in just eight months following the collapse earlier this year of the London Earls Court Smithfield Show, is now set to become an annual event again, the first time since 1995.

Jointly organised by the Royal Smithfield Club (RSC) and the Royal Bath & West of England Society Show, dates of 30 November and 1 December 2007 have been pencilled in for the next show, which will almost certainly be bigger and even

more well-attended.

Chief executive of the RSC Geoff Burgess said: "It has been a fantastic event - and the numbers of visitors have far exceeded our expectations. We were hoping for about 10,000 visitors but to get 15,000 is really brilliant and the atmosphere has been amazing."

The new show's 459 sheep and 312 cattle entries from across the UK and Ireland were the same numbers as entered in 2004 at Earls Court. "The fact that everyone involved has backed our move here is really great and the support from the livestock and trade exhibitors has been amazing," said Burgess. "We will be back here next year and it will be a cracking annual livestock event."

He added that auction prices at the close of the show had held comfortably above the market price - an important factor for all shows.

Bath & West Society chief executive Jane Guise said: "It has been really great and I'm very relieved." She vowed that next year's event will see a range of improvements. "My biggest wish would be to grow the food side of the show and make it a 'foodie' as well as farming event," she said.

The organisers were particularly pleased that such a large number of visitors travelled from all over the country.

Exhibitors were happy too. Peter Reynolds of EBLEX said: "It's been excellent. We had a lot of very high-quality enquiries. On Friday, we didn't stop. It had a real national show atmosphere."

West Country butcher Gerald David, who said he was "chuffed to bits" with the quality of the show, spent £9,500 on the Supreme Champion, a Limousin cross steer, and also bought the champion pen of lambs. It was 10 times what he would normally pay for such animals.

RSC deputy president William Cumber said that, out of a number of organisations that had initially expressed interest in staging a new show, the Bath & West Society had been the only one that had committed to joining as a partner, rather than just a venue provider. He indicated that, given future success, there was a possibility that the show would stay in Somer-

set indefinitely.

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