Yesterday we paid a visit to the Great Dorset Steam Fair. We only live an hours drive away to its a great day out for us.
My in-laws introduced it to us about 6 years ago and apart from missing it back in 2008, when my son was in hospital, and last year because I wasn't well, we've managed to get there as a family every year.
The first couple of years my mother-in-law and the wife's stepdad stayed camped there, then when they stopped camping they descended on us the night before. Now they drive the 2 hours it takes to get from their home in the Cotswolds to Blandford where the fair is held.
We have a great day.
After meeting up and getting into the site we start off with breakfast at one of the most popular food stalls on the site. Yesterday there was a waiting time of 20 minutes for a full English breakfast by the time we arrived and that was just after 8:30am. Ordering the food is simple, getting a seat is the challenging part as there are so many people waiting for someone to get up so that they can grab their chair.
For the first time since we've been going there I cleared my plate of the sausage, bacon, fried egg, friend bread and baked beans that were piled on it, then because the children don't like friend egg or bacon I ended up eating theirs. Fortunately all those calories were worked off during the day.
Breakfast out of the way we headed off to look around the fair.
Everybody in the group has different things that they are interested in. The wife's stepdad likes to look at the Shire horses and disappears to their arena. My wife, sister-in-law, mother-in-law and neice like to browse the stalls in the shopping village. My son and I head off to look at all the steam and military vehicles.
This year is the 70th anniversary of the Diamond T truck and as luck would have it we happened to be walking passed the heavy haulage arena when they had 6 of the lorries pulling and pushing a trailer carrying a large cylinder around the arena. The announcer came over the tanoy system to inform everyone that they believed that we were witnessing a world record for the number of Diamond Ts connect together and moving an object.
My son and I then proceeded to wander around the rest of the vehicles. As much as a day is enough for us to visit I can understand why enthusiasts can spend days at the fair, camping overnight. Listening to the owners tell the stories behind their vehicles is wonderful.
We listened to one owner tell the history of a steam driven racing car called Whistling Billy, made by the White sewing machine company. I've seen pictures and film of race cars from the early 1900s but never realised that there were steam powered ones.
Another owner explained how the makers of the car that he had brought along set a challenge for any potential buyers. The car would be set up so that it had the maximum pressure that it could take and then the buyer could take it for a drive. If they could keep the regulator fully open for a minute then they could have the car for free. As the car was steered by means of a tiller, the speed would continue to increase while the regulator was open and that it had no brakes, this was an incredible challenge. One mistake in steering and you would crash. Its unlikely that anyone ever completed the challenge.
After a brief wander through the food hall, two pairs of tired feet needed a rest and so we sat down to watch a hilarious display by Cyril the Squirrel and his racing terriers.
The dogs were amazing, especially when they appeared carrying miniature jockeys.
The section where members of the public could race their dogs was even better. One dog got its teeth into the lure that was used to entice the dogs to race up and down and wouldn't let go. It took 5 minutes before its was encouraged to let go. Not all the dogs were interested in racing as the moment that they were let loose there were dogs all over the arena, several showing a lot of attention to each other. The crowd were loving it.
Finally the children in the crowd got their chance to race against one of the dogs. About two dozen children of all ages up to young teenagers came out to race. The youngest had the biggest head start with only two yards to run to the turning point, the older children had about 5 yards to run. There was definitely a bit of cheating on the children's part as several were heading back to the finish line before anyone knew it. The dog lost to one of the children but it was really fun to see them all enjoying it so much.
The display finished with one of the terriers racing up and down the course and jumping through hoops of fire. The speed with which the dog was up and down the course and through the fires was incredible.
With the display over we wandered through the craft hall. My son bought himself a radio controlled helicopter which he can fly inside the house and out. Should be really good fun. I bought myself a silk fan, I've been meaning to get one since I borrowed one when I went to Bristol and did my burlesque debut. Now I've just got to return the one I borrowed.
Shopping over we headed back towards the fairground. Everyone else either went to the beer tent or to the cars to offload the shopping that had been picked up. I ended up on child watching duty and took the children around the fairground. After a half a dozen rides, including one on a rather interesting steam yacht (a bit like the pirate ship ride at modern amusement parks), the three of us went to catch up with the rest of the group who were all now at the beer tent. Everyone else was enjoying a drink so feeling obliged to do the same I wandered into the beer tent, looked over the various real ales on offer and selecting a nice pint of Sharp's Doombar.
The rest of the evening passed quite pleasantly with everyone sitting down to enjoy hot dogs or burgers and chips before wandering back towards the cars with a brief stop for the children to hold some owls.
All in all a pleasant day where I got to spend some quality time with my son. Who knows next year we might get to do it again, except it will be Jenny that he wanders around with. If so I think we'll stick with looking at the vehicles and not joining the rest of the girls shopping.