WHAT makes the Great Dorset Steam Fair so special?

Throughout the year, the thoughts of hundreds of thousands of people turn towards the annual pilgrimage to that steam and vintage spectacular, the Great Dorset Steam Fair – and ‘pilgrimage’ is just the word, for those large, rolling fields at Tarrant Hinton have earned an almost sacred mystique over the years.

The Great Dorset Steam Fair assaults all of our senses at the same time yet numbs our minds with its hugeness. The dazzling sight of so many historic steam engines trundling around or performing fascinating working demonstrations of everything from threshing to heavy haulage, wood-sawing, stone-crushing and road rolling, has to be seen to be believed.

As for sounds, the Great Dorset Steam Fair rings in your ears for months after you’ve wended your weary way homewards with aching legs – and much lighter wallets if you’ve enjoyed yourself as much as you’re supposed to.

This year’s show kicked off on Wednesday and runs until Sunday, promising to be better than ever with the staging of a special commemorative display to mark the centenary anniversary of the start of the First World War. It is fitting that the show honours the sacrifices that many millions gave during the 1914-1918 conflict.

The display has been carefully and sensitively put together as our tribute to these people. The display is divided into three main areas; a Western Front area, a Home Front area and an exhibition marquee that we are sharing with the National Traction Engine Trust, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary year.

It is very interesting to note that the showground at Tarrant Hinton has its own special link to the First World War, as it was on part of the land used for the steam fair each year (Blandford car park) where men of the Royal Naval Division trained as infantry during the First World War at Blandford Camp in readiness for the Gallipoli campaign of 1915.

Indeed the bore hole (for water) which was sunk for the encampment of infantry trainees is still used today as a water feed to the two large water lagoons – water stored for all the steam engines each year. The most abiding memory of any Great Dorset Steam Fair, though, comes when the sun goes down and the showmen’s engines come out to play, rocking gently with their canopies lit up in a blaze of colour as their belt-driven dynamos sing.

Beside the warm bellies of these burnished giants, stories are swapped late into the night and laughter rends the air. As for the total number of exhibits at this year’s Great Dorset Steam Fair, how do more than 220 steam engines, 250 tractors, 320 commercial vehicles, 80 military vehicles, 100 vintage and veteran cars, 140 vintage and veteran motorcycles, 100 pedal cycles, 120 stationary engines, 140 models and 70 miniature engines in steam sound?

There will also be the usual superb display of heavy horses, crafts and collections topped off with more than 3,000 trade stands.