AN EXCITING new era for the Yorkshire Agricultural Society will be firmly focused on promoting food, farming and the countryside, its chief executive has pledged.
As the charity prepares to welcome thousands of visitors to Countryside Live this weekend, Nigel Pulling said the developing plans to build a hotel on the Harrogate showground and replace its old exhibition hall would only serve to improve the Society’s capacity to promote agricultural interests.
Demolition has been completed of the old hall which had stood since the 1960s and the metal frames of its modern, larger replacement are being assembled. The £10 million project is expected to be completed in April, while a planning application for an Aparthotel - a 103-bedroom hotel offering apartment-style rooms - was submitted to Harrogate Borough Council earlier this month.
Mr Pulling told The Yorkshire Post: “We have to work hard to make these things happen but we are in a good position.
“Clearly it’s exciting because the new hall is the biggest project we have ever done and the hotel will be very complementary to all the shows we have here, whether that’s Countryside Live, the Great Yorkshire Show or weddings and what have you, but at the end of the day, all this is about promoting food, farming and the countryside and these developments are designed to help us deliver that message.”
Countryside Live, which brings agricultural action, equine competitions and local produce to the Harrogate showground this weekend, October 17-18, is billed as the little sister event to the Great Yorkshire Show and has a reputation as a family-friendly event.
Mr Pulling said he hoped the two-day countryside extravaganza would educate through entertainment.
“There is a clear point to the show, it’s to educate our visitors about food and farming and for them to see quality livestock whilst entertaining them at the same time so that hopefully they will leave with a positive impression of the countryside,” he said.
“I think people want to support farmers but sometimes it is not quite clear how they can, and this event reinforces why they should because, as someone said on television the other day, we don’t want to have to start importing milk (because British farmers are being driven out of business) but if we don’t support them then that will happen.
“British farming is a great industry with some of the highest standards in the world but it needs the support of consumers.
“Yorkshire is renowned for its primary production and food manufacturing industry and we have a wealth of companies, large and small, producing good food and a lot of it will be displayed here at Countryside Live.”
There are record entries in the equine section at this weekend’s event, including in the Northern Show Cross Finals which are held over the two days and feature junior, senior and team classes.
The Search for a Talented Showjumper contest also returns, judged by Olympic experts, Graham and Tina Fletcher.
Last year’s Countryside Live attracted some 12,215 visitors and the Yorkshire Agricultural Society will be hoping to attract similar sized crowds this weekend.
‘Bjorn the Polar Bear’ will be making his debut to entertain younger visitors, alongside ‘Arctic explorer’ Ursula.
There will be birds of prey and dog agility demonstrations, and the chance to drive a digger courtesy of Diggerland.
Knaresborough Horticultural Society is holding its Late Show at the event, with classes for a wide range of floral, vegetable, cookery and handicraft skills, and The Forge is playing host to farriery competitions across the weekend.
Countryside Live is open from 9am-5.30pm on both Saturday and Sunday at the Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate. Parking is free and tickets are available on the gate or in advance via www.countrysidelive.co.uk