A poignant farewell to two loyal stalwarts of the Royal Norfolk Show rounded off this year’s event during an emotional finale.

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Between stunning aerobatic and parachute displays, the showground crowd were given the chance to applaud retiring show manager Sarah de Chair and chief executive John Purling, who are standing down after a combined service of 30 years.

Escorted by the glittering horsemen of the Household Cavalry, the long-serving pair were driven around the Main Ring, waving goodbye to visitors, judges and stewards.

It was a fitting send-off at the end of two successful, sun-drenched days which defied the pessimistic weather forecast and brought a visitor total which organisers hope could be close to 100,000.

Mrs de Chair said the Grand Ring send-off was the highlight of the best show she had overseen during her 12 years of service.

“It was really flattering that so many people were there to thank us both,” she said.

“I really don’t feel emotional. I feel elated, because we have had two very successful days, which is what we wanted. Someone asked me when I would feel sad, and I think I know now when that will be. It will be the day I walk away from this office at the end of July.

“It will be such a busy month writing thank-you letters and putting the whole thing to bed, but when I walk out on July 31, I will need a big box of tissues. I would like to think we have changed this whole show to make it more of a family fun day, full of entertainment.

“I tried to change things on an annual basis to make it a lot more exciting for the public and I think we have achieved that, this year especially.

“I think this year is probably the best show I have run in all those 12 years. I feel happy and proud to have put the final seal on this year.”

Mr Purling said: “All in all it has just been a bumper show. After hearing the forecast about torrential rain and thunderstorms, we have just been so blessed. We were desperately hoping it would be a good one. I think we would have been bitterly disappointed if we had a really wet, difficult show, but the conditions could not have been better.

“I think we can both go out on a high, looking back and feeling content with how the show has moved on. We couldn’t have done it without the fantastic support and help of the staff and stewards.”

After 18 years with the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association, Mr Purling said he and Mrs de Chair were handing over the reins to a very successful event, which has become firmly established among the finest agricultural shows in the country.

“Looking back over those shows, especially the successful ones, I get a wonderful feeling of contentment at putting on an event which everyone seems to love so much,” he said. “People don’t just come for the animals, they come for the camaraderie – and it is also very satisfying that we have been able to put so much into the local, and national, economies.”

Mr Purling said he wished further success to incoming chief executive Greg Smith and show director Julian Taylor.

Earlier, the RAF Falcons were the stars in the sky during the show’s second day.

While low cloud forced the team to cancel their jump on Wednesday, yesterday’s crowds were delighted to watch Britain’s premiere parachute display team perform their impressive red, white and blue spectacle twice.

Each time, anticipation grew as the Falcons’ aircraft could be seen high overhead as the parachutists prepared to jump from 7,000 feet and perform their famous “non-contact” canopy stack. They left a wave of red smoke spirals as they moved closer to their drop zone, and arrived in the grand ring to cheers from the crowd as they landed one by one.

The parachutists were led by Sgt Mark Clayton, 32, from Tuckswood in Norwich, who has been part of the RAF Falcons display team for three years.

“Norwich is quite a nice-looking city from up there,” he said. “This is one of the best places, if not the best place we do displays. I really like coming back here, especially because I remember coming to visit the show as a schoolboy.”

After a few problems on the first day, traffic flowed much betteron day two, after an early-morning meeting to “tweak” the traffic management system.

Don’t miss the EDP’s 12-page supplement from day two of the show.

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