THE Aldershot Army Show will go ahead next month, despite the war in Iraq, and organisers are promising to make a return to the show’s glory days as the biggest and best military show in the country.
Sponsored by the Aldershot News, the event is set to take place over the May Bank Holiday weekend and will see a wide range of attractions including battle re-enactments, parachute displays and two motorcycle display teams.
The horse show, fun fair and trade exhibitors will take place on all three days. The dog show, army displays, balloon and helicopter rides, large farmyard, local interest groups and charities will take place on the Monday only.
Show secretary, Major Christian Hesse, said adjustments had to be made to cope with the organisation of the show but he was sure operational commitments overseas would not detract from the show’s success.
He said: “It has put additional pressure on us because a lot of troops have been sent to the Gulf but, in the best traditions of the British army, we have made allowances for that and found alternative troops to man the show. So the end result is that there won’t be any impact on the show.”
He added: “It should take 12 months to organise but we’ve done it in four. It’s the first time we have been involved in doing this from this headquarters but, given a sense of purpose, the army is good at getting on with things and overcoming obstacles.
“We’ve learned a huge amount about how to do these things and I think it’s fairly safe to say we are going to put on a successful show. I am very happy about the way things have come together.
“We’re in a five year development programme that will see 75,000 people by 2007 coming to the show and we really want to see a return to the days when it would attract more than 300,000 people.”
The army has been working closely with Rushmoor Borough Council, which previously hosted the event at the Rushmoor Arena.
Phil Stoneman, Rushmoor’s principal leisure officer, said: “I think what we really want to emphasise is that it is going to be something for everybody, entertainment for the whole family.”
He added: “It was always going to be a very difficult one in terms of timing and sensitivities. Some people may feel that it is an inappropriate thing to do while the war is on but I’m sure there will be others that will reflect on it and see its not a bad idea.
“It’s almost as though we’re not going to be deterred from carrying on with our normal activities, a kind of tribute to the soldiers and officers that are helping in Iraq.”
The Aldershot Army Show will take place on the Queen’s Parade Recreation Ground between Queens Avenue and the A325 and on adjacent land including the Athletics Stadium and sports pitches and Aldershot Garrison Sports Centre from May 3 to May 5.
The event is free for all three days although a charge of £3 will be made for parking.
As a sponsor of the show the Mail will be printing money off vouchers in the Aldershot News on Friday the week before the event so make sure you pick up a copy.
There is still time to play an active part if you are a local business, interest group or charity as a small amount of space is available in the large marquees.
Full details on how to get involved and the show’s programme are available on the telephone information line 0800 358 0180 or through the event website at www.army show.co.uk.