MORE than 900 exhibitors are descending on Blenheim Palace for last-minute preparations ahead of this weekend’s CLA Game Fair.
Food, games and crafts stallholders have been setting up pitches and marquees within the 181-acre showground at the Woodstock stately home this week.
There are currently more than 150 staff working on site, with the number due to rise to about 400 by tomorrow, when the event – which runs until Sunday – begins.
Interim director Tony Wall said: “The site is looking immaculate at the moment and we’re very pleased with how the build has gone.
“We’re still getting in a lot of contractors and exhibitors to build their stands, so it’s quite busy around the Woodstock area.
“It seems to work reasonably well because we have signs telling contractors to go through the Bladon entrance and exhibitors to use the Hensington Gate entrance, although every now and again we get a big lorry going through the wrong entrance.”
Mr Wall said drivers throughout Oxfordshire can expect to see variable message boards appearing as part of the traffic operation.
This also includes renting the Swinford Toll Bridge for the three days to remove the 5p drivers’ fees so congestion is eased, and using a helicopter and six cameras to monitor traffic.
He added: “The worst case scenario is if there’s an accident on the surrounding roads, which will have a huge impact on us, but we’ve got the ability to redirect traffic with the variable message boards.”
Key staff have been on the site since the start of June constructing it, and will be there until the end of August dismantling it.
Two pubs have been built – The Gunmakers and the Hare and Hounds – while 3km of fencing has been installed around the arena.
About 150,000 people are expected to attend across the three days of the fair, where they will be able to go shopping, watch demonstrations and take part in countryside activities.
There will be more than 4,000 campers, who are expected to begin arriving today.
GUNNING FOR NEW FANS OF SPORT
EQUESTRIAN sports condensed like ‘Twenty20 cricket’ will be on show at the CLA Game Fair.
Visitors will be able to watch showjumping, dressage and cross-country activities over six hours, rather than several days, during the express eventing competition.
The fair’s marketing manager Charlie Thomas said: “It’s like the equestrian version of Twenty20 cricket and it works very well.
“It’s been well-received in the equestrian world because a lot of riders like the idea of it because they’re done in one day. People will be able to get a really useful insight into the world of eventing.”
The 18 competitors will include Olympic silver medallist Lucinda Fredericks and Australian Olympic rider Sam Griffiths.
On Sunday in the main arena, dressage will begin at 10am, before cross-country at 1pm, showjumping at 3.15pm and a presentation at 4.15pm.
As part of a feast of countryside sport, there will be a polo match between a palace team – including the Earl of Sunderland, heir to Blenheim Palace – and the Gentleman’s Journal on Saturday at 6.30pm.
There will be stands for visitors to try clay pigeon shooting with help from experts, including seven-time world champion John Bidwell.
Mr Bidwell said: “It’s one of the biggest clay shoots in the world for the general public to take part.
“It’s a great opportunity for someone who wants to start shooting but doesn’t know much about the sport to have a go.”
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