Shetland Pony Grand National to be at heart of 2017 Kent County Show
PUBLISHED: 09:34 07 March 2017 | UPDATED: 09:34 07 March 2017
The annual event at the Detling Showground near Maidstone rolls into town from July 7-9
The Shetland Pony Grand National is set to be the main attraction at this year’s Kent County Show after a first look at the entertainment line-up was revealed this week.
The annual event, which welcomed some 80,000 visitors to the Detling Showground near Maidstone last year, will this summer take place from Friday July 7 to Sunday July 9.
The main Astor Ring will feature the Shetland Pony event on all three show days.
The jockeys will be children aged between 8 and 13 who, will not only entertain the crowds, but their participation is part of a qualifier for the ultimate Shetland Pony Grand National at the Olympia Horse Show later in the year.
The spectacular sees the children take part in a high-speed dash on their pint size Shetland Ponies - believed to be how some of Britain’s racing legends started their careers.
The first Shetland Pony Grand National was over twenty years ago, when it was designed to mirror the famous Aintree race on a miniature scale.
Since then it has become a firm favourite with audiences from all over the UK and this year they will be raising funds for the Bob Champion Cancer Trust in memory of the jockey who came back from the brink of death with testicular cancer went on to win the famous Grand National in 1981 on Aldaniti.
The young riders mirror their older counterparts with full silks and racing colours, albeit their tiny steeds have a maximum height 42 inches.
Spectators will be able to cheer on their favourite horse and jockey during the two and half laps of the ring, incorporating 12 miniature Aintree fences, including the famous Becher’s Brook - the notorious fence at the real Grand National which has a 6ft 9in drop.
Lucy Hegarty, show manager, said, “Each year we try to organise a variety of displays and entertainment based on our visitors’ expectations.
“Our job is to balance the more traditional displays alongside some new, unique and contemporary entertainment.
“We continue to gain helpful feedback from our audience via social media and are open to suggestions.
“This year we have tried to vary the entertainment highlights and give visitors something a little bit different.”
Music will play an important part in the show this year, with the Faversham Mission Brass Band, Kent Police Band and Isle of Sheppey, St John Ambulance Band all performing across the three days.
The musical theme continues with a full line-up of entertainment in the Members’ Area; the all-female group ‘The Damsels’, whose members have experience singing in the West-End as well as international credits, will be performing on Sunday.
The Members Area will also host ‘The City String Trio’ on Friday and on all three days the exclusive area will be able to hear Rachael Hayward a Steel Pan player with an eclectic mix of calypso, pop, reggae and jazz.
Kevin Attwood, chairman, added: “The Members Area is a wonderful place to enjoy the show from a different perspective.
“As well as the live music, three members are able to take advantage of priority parking, enhanced amenities and a dedicated caterer.
“In the past many people have been unaware of the benefits of being a member, thinking that it requires a commitment to the Agricultural Society throughout the year.
“Whilst this is something we welcome, in fact many visitors take advantage of the three day ticket and are happy to support the society for those days only.”
Also featuring will be a Dinosaur Nursery, stilt walkers, Tractor Ted, Titan the Robot and a new attraction in the form of The Old Milk Parlour, where visitors will get a real sense of what a working dairy used to be like, including the sounds and smells.
“It is important that all of our visitors have a wonderful day out,” Ms Hegarty.
“The best recipe for this is to have a large number of interesting, interactive displays where people can be very hands on.
“Whilst we know that the animals are a major part of the experience, we are also aware that education that is fun can be extremely powerful.
“All over the Showground there are pockets of amazing displays, demonstrations and activities where people can join in.”
The Countryside and Game area of the Kent County Show has grown in popularity over the past five years, featuring entertainment such as The Sheep Show and The Hawking Centre, with their awesome free-flying birds of prey.
Also not to be missed is the Dog and Duck display where the collie dog herds the ducks skilfully through a course around the ring.
Visitors can also see The Terrier Team, Harrietsham Ferrets, Gamegoer Gundogs and enjoy free children’s pony rides.
The online ticket system is now open to purchase discounted tickets for the 2017 show.
A family ticket will cost £45.00 in advance or £50 when bought at the gate.
The family ticket entitles two adults and two children aged between five and fifteen a full day entrance.
Children under five go free and parking is free.
Adult tickets are £20.70 in advance and £23 on the gate, and a child ticket is £6.30 in advance and £7.00 on the gate.
The Kent County Show runs from 8am until 6pm although there is no rush to leave as some of the food stands stay open later.
The show has over 150 different activities, workshops, displays and competitions which run throughout the day and are often repeated daily.