A staggering near 55,000 visitors confirmed the 20th Midland Game & Country Sports Fair held at Weston Park, Shropshire over the weekend of September 15th & 16th, as record best-ever and can claim they were there the year the event really came of age.
Last years attendance of 45,000 was itself a record and means the event has almost doubled in size in just three years. Delighted organisers commented: Over the last few years we have had a lot to contend with one way or another: deluge of rain, drought of petrol, pestilence with foot and mouth and even the terrible after affects of 9/11 last year.
We always knew that with a fair wind we could really do something special and I guess someone just decided this was our year. The weather was perfect, our new traffic management plan meant people were getting on and off site quicker than ever before...although with 55,000 visitors there were still some queues at peak times.
On site the atmosphere was absolutely fantastic: we increased the physical area of the show by around 30%, so with a number of new arenas and events, such as the very successful Plymouth Gin sponsored Gundogs, so although we were very busy it never seemed overcrowded.
After such a performance Tony Scutt also promised that the drive for the Midlands 21st birthday party in 2003 would be to seek to make the show even better - rather bigger.
The Fair even had its very own world record when the vicar of West Park, the Rev Graeme Sims - who opened both days with a short service - succeeded in simultaneously working eight different sheepdogs in the Main Arena in front of a large and spell-bound audience.
Dogs, dogs, dogs, never have there been so many dogs at a Country Fair as there were at the Midland Game and Country Sports Fair at Weston Park, Shropshire.
There were loads of Terrier Classes, Lurcher racing, Show and Obedience Competitions with even a Lurcher long-jump with the official record standing at an amazing 27 feet! A huge Gundog presence with the Game Conservancy Finals from eight Regional Tests covering Open, Puppy, Novice, Novice dog/novice handler. The Open winner was Mrs Jenny Walton with Labrador Greenvale Jig, the Puppy winner Philip Bruton and Olivertash Bailey:
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation held Scurry, Pick Up, Obstacle Course and Dog and Gun events, with a Victor Ludorum for the overall winner.
An Interteam Gundog Challenge for teams of four handlers and dogs, the Plymouth Gin Dummy Launcher Long Retrieve and Partridge Pen competition, a Gundog Tent and Parade covering 31 breeds.
For the first time you could have your dogs eye tested, as Janice Pritchard had organised an Eye Clinic with Mr Goodyear BV&S Cert V Ophthal MRCVS examining. Microchipping was available and there was even a Dog Creche where you could leave your animal for the odd hour to wander round and relax!
The Kennel Club had a stand, and were also holding a Good Citizen Dog Scheme Demonstration. The Mid Wales Working Gundog Society held a simulated Driven Shoot in the Gundog Arena, John Halstead was presenting his Gundog Demonstrations in the Main Arena, Kelly Kelly showed the practical approach of training Hunt Point and Retrieve with a Behavioural Clinic at the ringside.
John Cavana and Will Clulee held Gundog Displays and, of course, the highlight of the day for me was the huge parade of the Albrighton Foxhounds and the Derbyshire, Notts and Staffs Beagles in the Main Arena, where dozens of children were invited to come into the ring to make a fuss of the hounds. This was a full meet rather than just a parade, as the Foxhounds were going on to cubbing locally. Everyone cheered and clapped as Hounds, Master, Huntsman and Whipper In galloped round the Arena for a farewell, what a sight, hopefully never to be lost.
The spectators pets were not neglected either as the Handy Dog Competition (all dogs to be kept on leads), gained a biscuit for each dog who took part, there was also a Dog Pet Show.
A colourful collection of carting canines and their owners displaying craft work, consisting mainly of Bernese Mountain Dogs, with occasionally Newfoundlands and Bullmastiffs were organised by the Carters Fund for Health and Rescue.
In the main arena a popular return of the Reverend Graeme Sims with his remarkable team of sheepdogs was a great attraction, with enormous crowds as he worked up to nine dogs simultaneously, directing them in a variety of languages, from Welsh to Arabic, a unique set of commands for each dog, using a range of different whistles.
An outstanding Country Fair and, if you were a dog lover, as most of the crowd seemed to be, then you were certainly in your element. I cant wait for the next years event to come round, their 21st Anniversary, going from strength to strength. Tony Scutt the organiser must be congratulated.
Mr John Halstead demonstrating retriever training
In the sight hound exhibition Mr M Brown with his Borzois Sholwood Silver Dollar and S Raziel
The Rev Graeme Sims with some of his 16 Border Collies
The labrador handlers in the main ring gundog parade won the best dressed team
A working springer spaniel competes in the BASC Obstacle Course
Children at the ringside meet the hound packs
Tally-ho! The Albrighton Foxhounds leave the ring