Organisers of the Great Dorset Steam Fair say it has been a successful year, with improved operations and a bumper weekend for visitors.
mags4dorset and friends visited on Saturday and walked almost continuously for five-and-a-half hours and still didn’t manage to cover the whole show-ground.
“We sat down four times. Once for a cup of tea, once to watch the steam engines chugging up the hill, once for a panini and once to revisit our childhood,” said editor, Janine Pulford. “Other than that, we were constantly on the go and visited the country crafts hall, which stretched away into the distance and the food hall with a great choice of mouthwatering produce. We saw events in the arena, admired the heavy horses, looked around the shops, walked through a bicycle museum and visited the WW1 trenches, which were so authentic, you felt you had flipped back in time. A re-enactment group in full uniform tended to horses, milled around a tented camp and walked through the trenches. Nostalgia oozed. It was incredibly popular and older people swapped army stories. It brought everyone together in a most poignant way.
“From there we walked back up the hill. It was getting dark and the steam engines and fun fair were all lit up. There was a calm, yet vibrant atmosphere with fairground organ music playing and shows taking place, and had we had the energy to dance, there were live bands rocking the night away. Instead we sat down for a fourth time at the gigantic fun-fair, on the horse merry-go-round!”
Organisers said that despite the event clashing with term time, camping fields were almost at capacity by the weekend as hoards of pay-on-arrival campers and day visitors turned up to experience the sights and sounds of the unique festival.
Martin Oliver, Managing Director at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, said: “This has been one of the smoothest running shows we’ve put on so far. We have had some brilliant feedback from visitors and all our exhibits have gone down very well, especially the World War One section.
“The bank holiday was later than usual this year so we had to run the event when children had gone back to school. This had an impact during the week, but was compensated by the huge turnout of visitors over the weekend.
“We are so pleased with the weather we’ve had all week, especially after the torrential rain put a dampener on things last year. We haven’t had to use our new hard roads during the show, but during the wet weather pre-show they were invaluable.”
The new internal roads were officially opened on Sunday, 6 September, when Martin completed the final stretch in his late father’s steam roller, Lord Jellicoe.
Martin decided it would be a worthy tribute to complete this significant improvement to the event in a way that honours its’ history, heritage and founder. The new stretch of road was named “Oliver’s Way” and the first vehicle to drive on it was a Jeep that also belonged to founder Michael Oliver.
Built in 1929, Lord Jellicoe is a Fowler 8-Ton Roller purchased by Michael Oliver, founder of the Great Dorset Steam Fair, in 1968. It has stayed in the Oliver family since he passed away in November 2009.
Martin said: “I couldn’t imagine anything more fitting than to complete this first phase of our new roads in my Dad’s roller. It was the perfect way to demonstrate that whilst we are updating the event to improve visitor experience, we will always stay true to our history and heritage. My Dad was always so recognisable to everyone on site by his Jeep, so it was only right that it should be the first car to drive over the final stretch of road.”
Now for some steamy facts:
- Annually the Great Dorset Steam Fair goes through ten miles of electric cable, 200 tonnes of coal and 550 barrels of beer.
- Over 200,000 visitors attend each year from the UK and all over the world.
- Live music is a huge attraction at the event, with over 90 acts performing on six stages.
- There are over 170 acres allocated for pre-paid public camping that will accommodate a staggering 5,000 individual units (caravans and tents etc.) At the busiest time there will be between 15,000 and 20,000 show visitors camping on site.
- Over 60 Showman’s Engines with their gleaming, twisted, brass will generate the light and power for the old roundabouts and swing-boats.
- Over 100 cars, 250 commercial vehicles, over 140 motorcycle exhibits, over 100 military machines, over 250 vintage tractors and over 100 horticultural tractors are on display.
- Around ten large corn ricks are threshed and a dozen saw benches featured in the wood sawing area.
VARIOUS PHOTOS TAKEN AT THE GREAT DORSET STEAM FAIR © mags4dorset