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Bumper crowds have been recorded at county shows across the country thanks to good weather and tough economic times.

The Devon County Show (20-22 May) gate was up by 920 visitors from last year to 92,500.

Secretary Ollie Allen said: “People tend to stick with traditional value-for-money events after a recession.

“Also, TV programmes like Countryfile have put viewers back in touch with the reality of rural life,” she added.

Cheshire County Show (22-23 June), too, had record crowds of 85,000.

“[It] is proof that the show continues to go from strength to strength despite difficult economic times,” said executive director Nigel Evans.

Surrey County Show (30 May) admitted 38,200 through its gates — its highest attendance since 2002. Chief executive Sonia Ashworth noted an increased interest in livestock and food production.

“The agricultural element is growing, with the largest livestock entries in years,” she said. “And an £8 ticket gives you an array of attractions.”

Surrey Show falls during half-term, and Ms Ashworth believes the financial climate may have contributed to the high attendance as people spurn holidays abroad.

The Royal Highland Show (17-20 June) saw its gate swell from 176,522 last year to 187,644. At Northumberland County Show (31 May) attendance was up 11% from 2009 to 28,200.

Although many visitors are there as much for the coconut shy as the Foxhunters, a British Showjumping spokesman said that county shows were “the backbone of our sport”.

“County shows give us access to an audience that spans millions. Besides being lucrative commercially, they also allow us to identify medal-winning potential,” added spokesman Maria Clayton.

Karen Ward of the British Show Pony Society was also encouraged by the figures.

“It means that the general public and competitors want to support these shows,” she said. “It’s great for raising the profile of showing and giving members an opportunity to compete in large arenas with good audiences.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (8 July, 2010)