2016 Royal Show

royal showThe 166th Royal Show concluded on Sunday afternoon, 5 June.  Total visitor numbers stood at 132 163 as opposed to 132 643 in 2015.  Good weather prevailed throughout, and based on feedback, the event appears to have largely met the expectations of stakeholders.

Overall, 404 industrial, commercial and service sector exhibits participated in the show; well up on the 328 in 2015.

Going forward, and unless the size of exhibition stands are reduced, it is unlikely that the number of exhibitors will increase beyond this number.

Despite economic challenges and South Africa’s worst drought in fifty years, livestock numbers equated to 3 884, made up as follows:

Goats, fat lamb and sheep breeds 473
Cattle 498
Birds 2501
Rabbits 412

Whilst there were no Nationals in the bovine section, the show was again privileged to host the Hampshire Down as well as the Boergoat Regional Championships.  For the first time in the goat section, the Royal was also pleased to see the participation of the SA Kalahari Reds, a vindication of the Show’s deemed importance well beyond the borders of Kwazulu-Natal.

For the second consecutive year, the Monday of the show saw a heifer and weaner competition taking place in the cattle arena.  Whilst the number of weaners were down on 2015, heifer entries were good, and the occasion attracted a good audience.

Youth empowerment has always been an important aspiration of the Royal, and by way of a successful Youth Show and Future Farmers exhibition (during the course of the first weekend), coupled with a broad learning experience afforded all youngsters visiting the show, this objective was satisfactorily accomplished.

With the presence of Angus, Boran, Tuli, Braunvieh, Brangus and Beefmaster; the Cattle Expo returned to the livestock arena.  Breed representatives made an effort to choreograph their displays in an attractive manner, and the overall experience provided a marketing and educational opportunity for breeders and members of the public alike.

One area of concern related to the recently refurbished cattle handling facilities where – at certain points – the crush appeared to be a little wide.  Discussions are due to take place with the manufacturers to correct deficiencies.

The 2016 Royal Show Carcass Competition – held in the Sheep Expo Hall on Wednesday evening, 1 June – saw some 25 buyers bidding for the country’s top carcasses, in the presence of an audience of 200 plus.

Now in its 25th year, and having set three national and one international record; the occasion is acknowledged by breeders and buyers alike, to be the premier event on the South African Red Meat calendar.

2016 saw a new national record price of R95 per kg being set for pork.

The champion beef carcass achieved R95 per kg, falling someway short of the national record of R150 per kg set in 2015.

Whilst the 2007 world record of R3 000 per kg for lamb still stands; the 2016 competition saw the second highest price (of R1 600 per kg) ever achieved in South Africa.

All three champion carcasses were purchased by The Oyster Box Hotel.

The record status is now as follows:

Lamb 2007 R3 000 / kg National and international record
Beef 2015 R150 / kg National record
Pork 2016 R95 / kg National record

Craig Peters again conducted the auction with his inimitable style and verve.

The Sheep and Natural Fibre Expo continues to be a catalyst of interest and information, and with a mix of commercial exhibits, indigenous livestock and interactive demonstrations, 2016 didn’t disappoint.

The industrial and commercial section of the show included a meaningful presence of agricultural and heavy-duty equipment, and despite a moderate drop in construction equipment numbers (due substantially to the drought and generally tough trading conditions); a number of blue-chip brands successfully utilised the occasion for marketing.

A new addition to this component included the Powerstar Truck range; this by way of a substantial and well-designed display.   Also, and following a break of several years, Jeep and Mercedes Benz returned to the show.

The Mercury Food and Festival of Fine Living Hall upped the ante in a number of areas, with an array of products and services covering the ‘food-chain’ from farm field to dining table.   Whilst an empirical foot-count did not take place, the hall was perceptually busy throughout, and it is likely that numbers did not fall below the 100 000 recorded some years back.

The entire package was complemented with ongoing cooking and well attended displays of culinary expertise in the Demonstration Kitchen, with the highlight being the presence of well- known Escoffier Jenny Morris.

The Daily News Absolutely Fabulous Hall similarly raised the bar in terms of interest with the presence of a largely high-end product range.

Hall 3 was allocated to a ‘Made in India Shopping Festival’.  With a frenetically colourful and pleasing ambience, the exercise exceeded the expectations of exhibitors and visitors alike.

By way of a well-choreographed display in Hall 6, the Royal Show welcomed the return of the Witness, South Africa’s oldest newspaper, with a themed 170th anniversary exhibit.

Hall 7 was dedicated to home décor and interior design, whilst Hall 10 was utilised for the first time to house commercial exhibits.  This took the form of the successful Tembaletu Crafters Croft; an amalgamation of crafters from around the province.

Significant approbation was afforded the Safety and Security exposition in Hall 4, where exhibits by the South African Police Services and the Department of Correctional Services were acknowledged as being particularly special.

In line with past years and in an effort to glean views of participants, a simple electronic questionnaire asking: ‘In terms of your expectations, how would you rank your participation in the 2016 Royal Show out of 10’.

With a 42% response (statistically an acceptable figure for survey analysis), the results were as follows:

Score (out of 10) Percentage
10  21,2
9 11,5
8 19,4
7  16,3
6 15,4
5 7,5
4 1,6
3  2,3
2  2,4
1 2,4
0  0,0

All-in-all, a reasonably satisfactory result.

From a catering perspective, the fare on offer ranged from ‘silver service’ dining to fast food.  In particular, the re-designed Royal Food Court (previously known as Scotts Caterers) was favourably received.

In line with the norm and by way of acknowledging various partners and stakeholders, a number of social functions were hosted.  Amongst others, these included the Landbank Corporate Sponsors Dinner on Monday evening, where the guest of honour was Gloria Serobe, the CEO of Wiphold.  Her interesting presentation focusing on South Africa’s current standing, proved to be informative.

Certainly, the grandest function remains the Standard Bank Gold Cup Dinner, which followed the Cattle Parade and trophy presentations on Thursday evening.  On this occasion, the guest speaker was Pat McKrill, who delivered a light-hearted but interesting presentation on snakes.

The Royal Show’s eclectic entertainment programme saw ongoing activities – several of an educational nature – taking place on the Riverstage as well as the Main Arena.

Breaking from past traditions, the show got off to an action packed start with an Enduro-X event spanning the first three days.  The track included a variety of obstacles from  logs to rocks, sand, pipes, pallets and tyres, all positioned to test each riders stamina and skills.  So successful was the event that it is likely to be repeated in 2017.

The ever popular Royal Rock Concert took place on the first Saturday afternoon, with   Shortstraw, Majozi and The Kickstands supporting crowd favourite, Jeremy Loops.

The Royal Vuma FM Concert took place on Sunday.  The line-up included Thobekile and Kwesta performing their hit songs live, and they were supported by DJ Sox, DH Andre ‘the Game’ Ndimande and Msizi Shembe.

Following a challenging but successful all night operation, at which time the Enduro-X logistics were removed; equestrian events returned in earnest on Monday morning with the Boerperd Regional Championships.  This first time event for the Royal Show saw entrants from as far afield as the Northern Cape participating in a mix of equestrian disciplines from inhand, English Showing, dressage, jumping and carriage driving.

To cater for the vast number of school pupils visiting the Royal Show on the Wednesday and Thursday, ‘Working on Fire’ arranged a lunch hour demonstration; the purpose being to disseminate information in respect of the benefits, dangers and control of combustion. The exercise was well supported.

Despite exhibitors being somewhat averse to large groups of schoolchildren, there was a marked improvement in behavior.  This followed good communication between the Society and the Department of Education in advance of the show.

Thursday morning saw equestrian power jumping, followed later in the day with a tentpegging competition.

The Cattle Gold Cup presentation, traditionally perceived to be a ‘closed’ event for breeders, was consciously – by way of a marketing exercise – opened to the public for the first time in many years.  The sunset parade of excellence preceding the event on Thursday evening was especially well received.

For the past several years, the Royal Show has become a home for the canine fraternity, and this was perpetuated on the second Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.  The mix of activities included dog agility, a Funda Nenja dog display (focused on township children) and ‘Dancing with Dogs’.

Following an absence of twenty years, the 1 Special Service Battalion closed the second Friday’s events with a stirring Retreat Ceremony.  Interestingly, it was this Battalion that ‘invented’ the Ceremony in 1934, which is today performed throughout the Commonwealth.

In partnership with Lotus FM and veteran producer, Pinky Mothie; the second Saturday evening saw the hosting of the Royal Fusion Extravaganza concert.  This was the only event that extended into the late evening, but despite the cold, the occasion was well supported.

Whilst there was some initial consternation, the final Sunday saw comfortable weather to accommodate the Royal Symphony performance, followed later in the day with the traditional RSG Concert. Although this event caters substantially for the Afrikaans speaking community, its appeal in recent years has spread to all segments of the demographic mix.  The highlight and headliner of the day was Theuns Jordaan, and he was ably supported by Broers, Sorina and Saarkie.

From a marketing perspective, the 2016 Royal Show campaign appears to have largely met expectations.

Although the exercise was broad based, and included mainline press and radio, the focus was biased towards the electronic and social media.  This new approach is vindicated by the data to hand, viz:

2014 2015 2016
Page Likes 2500 8157 11448
New Facebook Likes 2116 4126 3621
Facebook reach 435448 1200000 2500593**
Website traffic 24398 55630 97977
Online tickets sold 0 292 437

**This figure represents the audience which was reached, not only on the Royal Show page, but on the greater social platform.

Save for the theft of one motor vehicle, two drink related minor assaults and several cases of (relatively) petty theft involving cell phones and laptops, criminal activity was minimal.

This notwithstanding, certain question marks exist in respect of the efficacy of the security company commissioned to oversee the Royal Show.  Of particular concern is the fact that a number of transgressions were known or alleged to have taken place within 20 metres of the supposed location of a guard.  These concerns will be addressed.

A further problem relates to ‘party-goers’ (a by-product of the Ukhozi FM Concert which no longer takes place) gathering along Chatterton Road adjacent to Gate No 7 on the final Sunday.  Whilst numbers were slightly down on that of 2015, and behaviour a little better, this unsolicited practice, emboldened with alcohol resulted in consternation being caused Royal Show patrons and exhibitors.  In an effort to prevent or at least dilute a repeat in 2017, the intercession of the SAPS and City Security will again be sought in advance of the show.

The Royal is indebted to and acknowledges the support of the numerous sponsors – in cash and kind – who contributed to the success of the show.  Very especially, the magnanimous support of the Landbank and ABI, both corporate sponsors, is greatly appreciated.

All-in-all with good weather and pleasing feedback, the 2016 Royal Show was deemed to have been a success; this despite the poor economic climate and the crippling drought.

Issued by the CEO

Royal Agricultural Society

7 July 2016

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