IN AN unprecedented move the
committee of Blackpool championship show was forced to abandon its championship show last weekend as gales battered the Fylde coast. The showground was evacuated in the middle of the last day without breed judging, groups and a best in show being declared.
Over its three days Blackpool Championship Show experienced the lot when it came to the weather with beautiful sunshine, torrential rain, and bitterly cold winds, but nothing could have prepared it for gusting gales of up to 65 miles an hour which hit the showground on the final day. The winds destroyed the catering tent, severely damaged the main ring marquee, and even blew one of the benching tents into a nearby farmer's field.
It was also reported that four people had been injured, one with scalding in the catering tent which was very badly affected by the gale. He is now recovering in hospital.
Judging had started outside in all rings at 9.00 am and continued in high winds which were getting stronger all the time until at 10.30 am a huge gust caused the supporting poles of the main ring marquee (nearest to the secretary’s tent) to come loose at the base and in the interest of exhibitors and their dogs safety secretary Steve Hall decided to move all judging from the outside rings into the wet weather rings where judging recommenced. Four tractors were brought in and the main marquee secured to them to support it from further gusts. The area was then cordoned off.
Throughout the morning winds were getting stronger and many of the trade stands in the face of the wind were dismantling and loading their vehicles. It was forecasted that by midday gusts would be at their peak and this certainly proved to be the case as those travelling to the luncheon tent found difficulty moving against the wind.
I was having lunch in the catering marquee and was seated at the first table nearest to the catering counter, alongside the chef’s wife and young daughter, when at half past twelve a huge gust brought the whole side of the tent down and I received a blow to the top of my head but was able to hold the tenting up for a few seconds. There were no other customers seated at this rear wall and the chef’s wife and youngster were unhurt. It was the chef himself who pulled us out and I beat a hasty retreat with the rest of the restaurant’s customers from the tent where we were evacuated well away from the area which was just as well as five minutes later an even bigger gust totally destroyed the tent and its’ contents at the same time ripping a huge chunk of roofing from the main ring marquee which otherwise held firm under the support of the tractors.
It was at this stage the show was abandoned and the Committee and staff are to be commended for the way they rapidly evacuated thousands of spectators, exhibitors and their dogs from the showground. By 1.10 pm all the benches and rings had been evacuated and other than committee, staff and trade stand holders the ground was cleared.
The fire brigade were quickly in attendance and three ambulances also attended. I later learned that two people had been injured when struck by tent poles and that a member of the catering staff had been scalded by hot fat and had been treated at hospital.
OUR DOGS staff did not immediately evacuate but for safety reasons the tent around the counter had been dropped which was just as well as at around twenty past one another huge gust struck us full on, ripping part of the counter top off. At the same time this gust tore the benching tent, just at the rear of our stand, from its’ moorings and blew this into the adjacent farmer's field.
At this juncture we were then advised by the fire-brigade to leave the grounds.
I have to say as someone in the midst of this disaster I cannot praise enough the way Steve Hall, his committee and staff handled the evacuation and I am convinced their quick actions averted what could have been an even more catastrophic situation. I have been present at shows when tents have gone before, including back in the 70s at the then Chester Championship Show, but nothing I can remember was ever as bad as this .
Now Blackpool has to face the enormous headache of clearing the debris from the grounds and completing all the paperwork needed to sort out this disaster, insurance claims, compensation, or whatever. The Kennel Club will also need to figure out what happens about all the incomplete judging and the CCs, BOBs and Groups not judged because exhibitors were evacuated.
Speaking to the local paper Steve Hall, secretary of Blackpool show, said: "There must have been around 3,000 people with 3,000 dogs there. It's 12 months work wrecked in five minutes -disappointing is an understatement.
"It's sad, people came from all over the country to show their dogs, but the main thing is nobody died. We were monitoring the situation all morning and then around lunchtime we decided to abandon the event. There could have been fatalities. I was very proud of my staff for evacuating the area so quickly."
Three out of nine marquees were blown down - the largest at 320 feet was blocking Westby Road the day after the show.
Steve told OUR DOGS on Monday night: “I would to thank my staff and others who helped towards getting everyone out of the showground quickly and safely.’
OUR DOGS contacted the Kennel Club last Monday and they issued the following statement:- “The KC has every sympathy with the Society having to cope with the situation in which it found itself and for all others who were involved in this awful predicament.
'We are currently waiting on a report from Blackpool & DCS’s Committee after which the matter will be considered by the Show Executive Sub-Committee. Subject to receiving the Society’s report it is likely that the Kennel Club will ratify all those awards decided up to the point of the show’s abandonment. However a more fulsome statement will be issued as soon as the full facts are known and proper consideration can be given to all aspects of the show’s abandonment.”
Hundreds of you contacted us with your pictures and experiences of the show, here is what some of you told us:
We were at the show yesterday showing Bearded Collies & I would like to thank our judge for the professional & timely manner she got through the entry, finishing just before the officials decided to abandoned the show. I was waking towards the back of the catering tent from the secretaries tent when people were rushing the injured catering man down the path. He was wearing just an apron round his waist & all the top of his chest & arm was very red; I do hope he wasn't too badly injured.
We were in the benching tent at right angles to the catering tent & by the time we had got all the dogs (3 Beardies) & all our stuff back to the car it was around 13:15hrs; as there were queues trying to get off the ground we had a cuppa in the car & started the to leave the car park around 13:40. It took us about 20mins to get to the motorway but that is because we took a detour from the .5mile queue for the main road & went via Wrea Green.
We were in one of the metal structured tents which although kept banging loudly felt a lot more secure than those with the wooden pole & probably should be used all the time.
Sue Nicholls-Ward (Bumbleridge Bearded Collies)
Well, I was showing Alaskan Malamutes, our breed judging took place inside the wet weather marquee and the majority of dogs coped admirably with the weather conditions, thanks to swift judging we were completed by midday.
About midway through the judging there had been the announcement for all breeds outside to move in because of the fears over the best in show ring marquee. We were unsure of whether stakes judging would be continued, and endeavoured to find out what was going on.
Now, at this point i will say, i really feel for the Blackpool committee as it's a terrible thing to have happened to their show, but i do feel the way in which it was dealt with was severely lacking. No committee members gave us a straight answer over whether judging would be continued, they were telling people to leave "if you value your life" and yet judging was continued in a majority of rings, announcements were made over the tannoy which could only be heard in the middle of the showground......which we were all banned from!
As the tent we were in was starting to look dangerous, we decided to move ourselves and the dogs to the cars, and then return to try and find out what was going on. We returned to the main entrance, no sign of any committee members, another exhibitor told us that there had been a tannoy stating the show was being abandoned. So we returned to the cars, at which point it then took about 45 minutes to get out of the carpark, as many of us patiently queued and a handful of others forgot their manners and cut in all over the place in an attempt to get out sooner. Again, no sign of anyone marshalling to prevent the confusion.
As i said, it's a crummy thing to happen, and i appreciate that with several marquees collapsing, committee members had a lot to deal with, but the lack of anyone seeming to know what was actually happening, the lack of definitive planning did nothing to help the majority of exhibitors. They must have been expecting high winds at least 24 hrs before the sunday, and yet it seemed that every committee member we encountered was in a blind panic.
At the end of the day, our dogs and ourselves were fine, and merely somewhat irritated, but for others it was probably much worse, now we are waiting for news on what the protocol is for this situation with regards to the classes which were not judged, if indeed there is one!
Our tradestand was located next to our dogs. I thought that the wind would just blow over on Sunday but it continued, getting stronger and stronger. I continued to trade. The the best in show tent started to lift and exhibiors we told to go into the wet weather rings, and keep away from the BIS tent. Still it was not that bad, a few more pegs in the ground and we continued trading. Then a few traders tents came apart. The wind picked up, and traders started to pack up.
Then the first tent fell. It was across the showground and a support bent on my tent, another couple of tent pegs took care of that. Traders started moving their vans to the front of the stand to protect their tents. People started to clamour from stand to stand. To my amazement, the great dog exhibitors remained calm, and were more interested that they got a pigs ear, while the whole world around us was falling to pieces, and the show was coming down around us. The typical brit. The tent behind us started to go and at this point I rushed out, started to yell to people to get out. People moved to the wrong side of the tent, after a lot of yelling we emptied the tent.
It was time to pack up and get the hell out of here!
The firemen and Steve Hall wanted us to evacuate, no way was I going to leave my stand. We got packed up just in time before we were thrown out the show. We were the last stand to leave before the evacuation was complete.
I hope everyone is ok and thank you to the people of bannerdown and jim from Animal Health.