THE planning is done, the construction work is well under way – now all that is needed is a richly-deserved smile from Mother Nature.
Harewood House, near Leeds, is staging the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) Game Fair next Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 31 to August 2.
It will be the first time since 2003 that the historic estate has played host to the world’s largest outdoor countryside-themed show.
Harewood was due to welcome the annual event in 2007 but it was cancelled after torrential rain turned the site into a health and safety risk.
And, speaking at the estate yesterday, CLA Game Fair director Tony Wall said he was hopeful the elements would be much kinder this time around.
Mr Wall told The Yorkshire Post: “My head of operations and my operations manager have both assured me that the weather is set fair.
“A few showers are forecast but that was also the case here [on Tuesday] and we didn’t get anything, so fingers crossed.”
Around 150,000 people and 1,000 exhibitors are expected to flock to the fair, which has toured parts of the UK including Oxfordshire and Leicestershire since it last visited Harewood.
Showcasing the best in sports, food, fashion and other aspects of country life, organisers estimate the event could generate more than £30m for the regional and wider rural economy.
Such is the scale of next weekend’s proceedings, the CLA has had a team getting the site ready since the start of last month.
Their tireless efforts – which include putting up tents that would stretch for 3.5 kilometres if they were laid end to end – should, in the main, be completed by tomorrow.
But Mr Wall knows there are likely to be a few more hurdles to overcome before the first visitors descend on Harewood next Friday.
He said: “I have done 17 of these fairs in different roles and most years we are still working on the eve of opening, as I suspect is the case at most large-scale events. However, we always open on time.
“Each venue raises slightly different questions. You are dealing with different local authorities, for example, that each have different priorities.
“But as probably the largest movable event in Europe we are used to that kind of scenario and we take it not as a problem but as a challenge to get to grips with.”
Mr Wall also said he was delighted to be back at Harewood, where it definitely appears as though the fair’s absence has made its place in the area’s heart grow stronger.
“It does seem as though the people of Yorkshire are enthusiastic about our return,” he said. “We have had some very encouraging calls and messages on social media and there is real excitement in the area, given that we have been away for a long period.”
This year’s packed programme will feature everything from international gun dog competitions and falconry displays to kayaking lessons and cookery demonstrations by TV chefs such as Mike Robinson and Jose Souto.
A campsite is also available for people really wanting to make the most of the Game Fair experience. The event was first held in 1958 at Stetchworth, near the Suffolk horse-racing centre of Newmarket. Next weekend will mark its sixth visit to Harewood.
For further information and tickets about the Game Fair, visit the www.gamefair.co.uk website or ring 0845 612 2052.