A long-running livestock event in Wensleydale has broken with tradition and will be held later next year to make way for a major cycling race.
Masham Sheep Fair will take place a week later, on the weekend of October 5 and October 6 in 2019, so that the market town can capitalise on what has been billed as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” when the UCI Road World Championships arrive.
Thousands of people are expected to visit Masham when the championships pass through the town during the men’s elite individual time trial on September 25, the women’s elite road race on September 28 and the men’s elite race a day later.
The latter two dates coincided with the timing of the next sheep fair, but its organisers have now agreed to push it back a week.
Susan Cunliffe-Lister, who has run the fair with a group of volunteers for more than 30 years, said it was a “difficult” decision, but explained: “We hope that by doing so, visitors will be able to enjoy both the cycling and the sheep fair and help us to continue supporting farmers and the local community.
“We do recognise that the new date clashes with some other sheep-related events and sales but will do our best to make the 2019 show as strong as possible.”
Welcome to Yorkshire, which was behind the bid to bring the cycling event to the county, said it had worked constructively with the sheep fair and Masham Parish Council to reach the arrangement.
The tourism body’s chief executive Sir Gary Verity said: “We have a fantastic relationship with Masham Parish Council and have been longstanding supporters of the sheep fair which we consider to be one of the most enjoyable and historic events in the county.
“I have shown my own sheep there on many occasions and it is one of the dates I look forward to most in the autumn calendar.
“With the World Championships visiting the town we agreed it was beneficial to move the dates of the sheep fair so Masham could fully embrace both events. We’re grateful to the organisers and Fair participants for being so accommodating and believe the town will reap the rewards as a result.”
And, Flo Grainger, chairman of Masham Parish Council, added: “We in Masham are delighted to be able to accommodate both the UCI Road World Championships and the Masham Sheep Fair. Thanks to the sheep fair’s flexibility, we will have two memorable weekends in Masham next autumn with each event able to keep its own identity.
“The World Championships will bring thousands of people into the town and millions more will be watching around the world. We see that as an opportunity to promote the sheep fair the following week. We know many cycling fans will want to come back soon to our wonderful town – as has happened after our Tour de France and Tour de Yorkshire celebrations – and the Sheep Fair gives them the perfect opportunity to do that.”