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Kent County Show will rely on new Maidstone Exhibition Hall and Kent Event Centre business to survive in future

By Chris Price

After discovering her spaniel had digestive problems, Rosie McConnachie cooked up a treat that would carry her to the Kent County Show.

The former NatWest worker started baking treats for her dogs from natural ingredients in her kitchen in Biggin Hill.

When they lapped up the canine cookies, she then started baking for cats, then small animals, then horses, and Westerham Pet Bakery was born.

Westerham Pet Bakery was at the Kent County Show

“It is for pets who have allergies and digestive upsets,” said Rosie at her stall during the show.

“We have got fish products, meat, vegetarian, cookies, muffins, ginger bread men, chewy strips and birthday cakes.

“It’s all natural. There are no nasties, additives, preservatives, salt or sugar. We have had such a great response. People see the birthday cakes and say ‘oh my gosh I’ve never seen that before’.

“Our dogs eat them fine and they are good critics.”

Westerham Pet Bakery's David Chapman, Rosie McConnachie, centre, and Linda Chapman at the Kent County Show

Having only started her business last year – which she runs with fiancé David Chapman and future mother-in-law Linda – Rosie sees events like the Kent County Show as vital to get her name out to the public and shops.

Nearly 75,000 people visited from Friday to Sunday, July 11 to 13, looking at trade stands, cattle parades, horticulture displays and even pole climbing.

But with county shows closing in recent years across the country, organisers have taken steps to ensure small companies like Rosie’s will always be able to rely on the three-day event at the Kent Showground, Detling.

Visitors who braved the drizzle on its opening afternoon saw the newly-built Maidstone Exhibition Hall being opened by the Duke of Kent.

The Duke of Kent at the show in 2014

It is hoped the 4,000sqm building will provide a revenue stream for the Kent County Agricultural Society, the charity which has run the event since 1929.

President and chairman Kevin Attwood said: “We are trying to diversify our business. It is a charity with objectives to protect the rural economy but to do that you need an income stream.

“Years ago that may have been the Kent County Show on its own but these days there is competition and changes in what people do in these economic times.

“What we are trying to do with the new building is produce a business which stands behind the charity to produce income so the charity can carry on doing what it is doing.

The Lamb National at the Kent County Show

“The new building is a keystone to that. From an event point of view, it moves us into a different place and we can offer a hugely improved facility to people who want to do exhibitions.

“That facility is unparalleled in Kent. That business plan should strengthen and underpin the future of the society and the Kent County Show.”

The hall was also used to host several networking events over the weekend, a function the County Show has been crucial for in the rural sector.

Show manager Lucy Hegarty said: “There are massive parts of the show which the public do not see but are a massive networking opportunity for businesses.

“For us as a charity, that is what we set out to do. Since 1923 the society has served the rural and agricultural community.

“The show has been going 85 years and is a massive part of the county’s calendar. That is how we want it to stay.”

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