Sandhurst Donkey Derby

The inside view of the last few weeks prior to the Donkey Derby, one of the major community events in the east of Berkshire.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Initial results

The basic programme for the weekend is that we pick up fence posts, tables and so on from the Sandhurst Military Academy on Friday, let the funfair on to the field on Saturday, mark up the field on Sunday, run the fair on Monday and return the kit to the Academy on Tuesday.

On Sunday while we marked up the field the weather forecast for Monday degraded from light drizzle to a torrential downpour so we weren't quite sure what to expect when Monday dawned.

The day began cool with a light drizzle - almost perfect conditions for us since it doesn't encourage people to get in their cars to make a dash for the coast. After the gates opened at 11:30 trading was relatively brisk until just after 3pm when the heavens opened. That meant that people raced back to their cars and attempted to get out of the Car Park. It took us quite a while to disperse the resulting queues.

A short day then, but actual trading results don't seem to be very different from last year - a bumper year - because we let more pitches to 3rd party stallholders. The current estimate is that income is within about £600 of last year's figure so local charities will do a little better than they might have expected. Enormous thanks to our sponsors and everyone who helped throughout the year and on the day itself.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

45th Sandhurst Donkey Derby - Monday 30 May 2011

The next Sandhurst Donkey Derby will take place on Monday 30 May 2011. We are in the final stages of planning but we still have surprises after all these years and this week my phone has been ringing off the hook with stallholders and suppliers trying to make last minute changes.

Here is the basic programme:

  • 11:30 Gates open for the public
  • 12:00 Official Opening by the Mayor
  • 12:05 Entertainment by Sandhurst Corps of Drums
  • 1:00 First Race
  • 4:30 Last Race, presentations and close
In terms of stalls, the field should have plenty to entertain - we seem to have more stalls than ever with a variety of rides, amusements and things to buy. If you are in the area and have never thought about coming to the Donkey Derby then try it - if you have been before then you won't need much encouragement. As I have noted in other posts on this blog, the Derby is an old-fashioned family fair which entertains huge numbers of people every year and raises money for charity. Don't worry about the charity bit though - just come along and enjoy yourself. It should be a fun day - many people come back year after year and last year's crowds were very special indeed - our best day for many years.

None of the organisers or helpers takes any money so everything we raise (advertising, entrance fees, donkey sponsorships, sulkey sponsorships, stallholder pitch fees and income from our own stalls) goes straight to charity after we pay out the costs for the services that we have to buy in to make the event work.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Getting over it

We are all a bit euphoric. Monday was a great day with a large crowd - I don't have the figures yet but we know that we have raised a good amount for our charities and many of the stallholders had good takings for their charities. A good indicator that loads of people were there is that the field that we use as a car park was almost full for about 1½ hours and very busy for the rest of the afternoon. Add in the large numbers that walked to the field and it is easy to understand why we had so many on the Donkey Derby field.

What really made it was the weather. We are definitely a local event, so we are competing with 'exciting destinations' that are further away. The weather on Monday was cool and dry all day which meant that people stayed at home in the morning rather than going down to the coast. The result is that our charities will benefit more than they expected. More important than the money though is that this is a local event, typical of the family fairs that used to take place all over the country which are now much rarer. It's becoming harder to put these things on, but it does feel great when we see so many people enjoying themselves.

On the day before the derby we mark out the track and the positions of all the stalls. On the day we begin early and put up wooden stakes at inner and outer edges of the track and set up ropes. We also create a pen for the donkeys and put up Start and Finish banners on aluminium scaffolding. We had a good-sized work team and we managed to get everything sorted by about 10:30. I helped with some of the heavy work, but I also show stallholders where they are going so I seem to spend a lot of time jogging up and down the field making sure that people are happy. They never are of course. I sometimes wonder whether I should operate a 'no changes' rule but as I had some pitches spare, I was willing to let those that were unhappy to move to vacant pitches.

The rest of the day I seem to spend with a series of black plastic bin liners in my hand, collecting rubbish that people drop on the ground and putting new bin liners in bins that are full. After the last race we begin breaking it all down, collecting the rubbish and putting all the gear away for next year. Next week we meet together as a team to work out what we could have done better.

Monday, May 17, 2010

2010 Sandhurst Donkey Derby is on 31st May - May Bank Holiday

Providing the weather is good and that the ground isn't too soft in the field that we use as a car park, the donkey derby should take place on the last Monday of May.

Gates open at mid day and the first race will be at 1pm. There will be a funfair, donkeys, tombolas, air rides and everything that you would expect from a traditional family fair - we look forward to seeing you there, helping us to raise many thousands of pounds for local charities.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

2009 Donkey Derby was a great success

About 3½ thousand adults - I don't have the exact figures yet - and a similar number of children visited the Donkey Derby yesterday. That's the best attendance figures for quite a while, but of course I am comparing it with the last two or three years when we have had cancellations and rescheduling.

Many thanks to the businesses and individuals that sponsored the event, the entrances, the start and finish gantries, advertised in the programme, sponsored donkeys or sulkies or took stall space on the day. This is an event which generates terrific amounts of money for a range of charities as well as (probably more importantly) providing a community entertainment.

When my wife and I moved back to the UK from Belgium in the early 1980s, Sandhurst had a number of events which provided a calendar of things to do in the area. Since then, a lot of well-meaning legislation has had the unintended consequence of making those events harder to plan, organise and stage and has driven them out of the calendar. I think that's a shame and it was nice to speak to a number of teenagers and young adults yesterday and find out how positive they were about the Donkey Derby.

One of our problems is physical. I was on the field at 6:00am and we finished packing the gear away in our store at about 8:30pm. I was pretty shattered at the end of the day and I'm a long way from being the oldest in the team. Anyway, let's finish on a really positive note - it was sunny, it was fun for thousands and we raised a huge amount for charity.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

2009 Donkey Derby

The 42nd 2009 Donkey Derby should take place at the Bull & Butcher field on Monday 25 May. Gates will open at 11:30 and the last race will be about 4:30. We have arranged a funfair, donkeys and plenty of charity and trade stalls. All we need now is some decent weather between now and the day itself.

If you have a specific question then post a response to this post [with your name and contact details] and I will contact you as quickly as I can. Your reply will not be published.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Timings for the Saturday 28 June

The Donkey Derby will open at 12:00

First Race 13:00

Royal Military Academy Band 14:15

Last race 16:30

Races will include 7 donkey races, several sulkey heats and a sulkey final.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Band from RMA, Sandhurst

A band from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst will be playing at the next Donkey Derby which will take place on Saturday 28 June.

Friday, June 06, 2008

2008 Donkey Derby is now rescheduled for Saturday 28 June

We have most things in place for the 28 June. The fields are available, the donkeys are available, a band from the RMA may be available and now we just need to make sure that the people are available.

We need people to help us set up and we think that we have most of what we need, we need people to help us run the event on the day and we are probably still a bit short of resource so we need to do a bit of ringing around to make sure we have enough cover and we need punters to come and enjoy themselves. They will need to be encouraged by some advertising and we are getting the large banners modified now. Our printer has also offered to print off and distribute flyers so that should be helpful in creating better local awareness.

We are now hoping for decent weather between now and the end of the month. On the day itself I'm hoping for a cool morning and a warm afternoon but I'll be happy if it is relatively fine.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Rain postpones the Donkey Derby

Heavy overnight rain prevented the Donkey Derby from taking place on 26 May. The Committee will now have to consider the options for running the event later in the year. That requires a number of things to be available:
  • the fields themselves
  • donkeys
  • a funfair

Running the Donkey Derby later in the year has never been as successful as running it on the late May Bank holiday, but I think we are obliged to put on something. Maybe this year we can break those rather gloomy statistics, but it will require resource and good publicity.

Last year we didn't manage to run it on a different date, but these kinds of events are part of the glue which helps to keep the community together apart from the £10s of thousands of pounds which it raises for local and national charities.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

2008 Donkey Derby

The 41st 2008 Donkey Derby should take place at the Bull & Butcher field on Monday 26 May. If you booked and paid for a trade stall for the 2007 Derby then, unless you have asked for a refund, your booking has been carried over automatically.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Update on 2007 Donkey Derby

There will be no Donkey Derby in Sandhurst in 2007. The 41st , which we had been hoping to run this year, will now take place in 2008.

It isn’t for want of trying. Our usual date – the late May bank holiday – was called off by Sandhurst Council when a field inspection revealed that the field that we use for the Car Park was too soft to allow vehicle movements. Our fall-back date – the 24th of June – suffered the same fate. The good news is that those decisions prevented us from running the Derby on days that turned out to be both cold and wet which would have kept attendance figures low.

To run a successful Sandhurst Donkey Derby we need three things:
  • availability of the Bull & Butcher field and the adjacent field which we use for Car Parking
  • Donkeys
  • a fun fair
Given sufficient lead time, it isn’t difficult to make sure that all 3 are available on a particular date. Starting from late June, and attempting to organise a Derby before the end of August (the last point at which the field is available), it is almost impossible. The field was available on only two week ends – the 1st of July (no better in terms of weather) and the August Bank holiday. Unfortunately we can’t get both the donkeys and the funfair on the same days over the August Bank holiday week-end.

We regret that we have to postpone until next year, but there doesn’t seem to be a sensible alternative. We know that we aren’t the only event to have been hit by poor weather, but it means that our profile in the community has been damaged and we will almost certainly have to work harder next year to make the next Donkey Derby a success.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Donkey Derby is cancelled on Sunday 24 June

Persistent rain over the last few days has meant that today's field inspection by the Council groundsman was negative and we will have to postpone the event again.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A change of plans ...

In my last post I described the kinds of things that we do during the last few hours before the Donkey Derby. Well, this has been a busy week-end, but rather different from what we had planned. This morning, Sandhurst Town Council decided that the event could not go ahead - recent rain has left some areas on the Car Park field too soft for use.

Our fall back date is Sunday 24 June, so I and other members of the Committee have been anxiously ringing around today to let stallholders and others know that they need not turn up tomorrow.

Let's hope that the weather is rather kinder to us in June so that we can raise that money for charity.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Last minute preparations

The Committee meets periodically throughout the year to make sure that most things are in place for this week-end. Those few remaining hours are hugely busy.

Today we send over a large truck to the Military Academy to pick up tables, chairs, fence posts and rope - this would be a difficult event to put together without the support of the Academy and we are hugely grateful.

Saturday, not much happens except that we open the field to let the funfair in.

Sunday, we mark out the field and the Car Park

Monday, we start setting up the field at 7:00 and we won't leave it until the rubbish has been cleared away about 12 hours later. Then it is home to get cleaned up and swear that we will never do another one!

Tuesday, the posts, rope, tables and chairs go back to the RMA. The truck goes back to another of our sponsors and then we just have to finalise the accounts to work out how much money we have raised.

The most important meeting takes place in June when we attempt to have a formal wash-up and lessons learnt exercise so that we build on our experience and try not to make the same mistakes twice. Even though the Donkey Derby raises funds for charities, unless it is run as a business then there won't sufficient focus on reducing costs and making the experience as good as possible for visitors and stallholders.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

41st Donkey Derby timings

Don't forget to come. It's a great family day out and one of the largest events of its kind in east Berkshire. As always, it is on the late May Bank Holiday Monday - 28 May - and will take place at the Bull & Butcher field (the junction of the A321 with Yorktown Road in Sandhurst), opposite the Rackstraw.

We now have bookings for about 80 stalls as well as the funfair. Here are the outline timings for the afternoon:
  • 12:00 Official Opening
  • 12:15 Sandhurst RMA band
  • 1:00 1st race - the John Nike gallop
  • 1:20 2nd race - Church Racing Partnership Canter
  • 1:40 3rd race - Linatex Chase
  • 2:00 4th race - Our Lady's Baby Unit - Toddlers' Chase
  • 2:15 - Sandhurst Corps of Drums
  • 3:15 - The Taverner's Trot Challenge Cup Sulkey heats
  • 3:40 - The Taverner's Trot Challenge Cup Final
  • 3:50 5th race - The Eagle House Gallop
  • 4:10 6th race - Richard Worth Property Plate
  • 4:30 7th race - Champion Jockey Stakes

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Trade Stallholders

The mailings to Trade Stallholders have now gone out, so if you believe that you should have been included in that mailing but have not yet seen any of the paperwork then please get in touch either through Sandhurst Town Council or by leaving a comment on this blog.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

2007 Donkey Derby

The 2007 Donkey Derby will be held at the Bull & Butcher field in Sandhurst on Monday 28th of May. Mailings to trade stallholders will go out in late February, and if you want to be sent an application form then call Sandhurst Town Council or leave a comment to this post.

I will be providing updates about the Donkey Derby both in this blog and in my main blog - Business Development - where I talk about the issues of running a charitable event as a business in order maximise the amount that we raise for good causes.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Donkey Derby will take place on Sunday 27 August

The Donkey Derby will take place on Sunday 27 August. We would have preferred to run it on the following day, but the donkeys have a prior booking and it wouldn't be the same without them.

I have just printed out the instructions for stallholders and they will be posted as soon as I buy stamps for them all.

For everyone else, gates will open at mid-day and the last race will be about 4:20. There will be a funfair, bands, donkeys, giant slides, games, books, tombolas, snacks and drinks. We hope to see you there.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Bank holiday tasks

This morning I was planning to go down to the Donkey Derby field to turn away any stallholders that hadn't been contacted, but fortunately, the weather is foul so I think that many of them would get the hint even without my being there.

I'm not talking about the people that booked the stall from me - I have spoken to all of them, first-hand. It is their helpers. Some of the stalls use 10 or 12 helpers and it's quite possible that some of them haven't heard the news.

Now that we aren't raising money for charity today, we will have to start planning to make sure that we raise as much as possible on the revised date - 27th August - the Sunday of August bank holiday.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

We've got a drought but it won't stop raining ...

Since the drought was declared about 8 days ago, the rain has barely stopped. It won't drain out of the top surface of the fields and we risk turning both of them into quagmires if we hold the Donkey Derby on Monday.

The event has therefore been put back until August - Sunday 27th and with luck we will have better luck with the weather. The next few days involve a lot of ringing around to check that everyone knows that the event has been put back.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The band ...

Amongst all the other entertainment on the day, the Band of the RMA (Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst), temporary home of the Princes Harry and William will be providing entertainment on the Donkey Derby field.

Not long now ...

Tomorrow I send out a final mailing to stallholders to let them know what the detailed Health & Safety requirements are for the Donkey Derby. this will give them details of when they can get access to the field and when they should have their vehicles removed so that the Derby can begin.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Packing them in ...

The field has finite capacity. Everyone knows that ... don't they? Despite that, every year there is a game of brinkmanship which goes on. Who can send their cheque in as late as possible and still guarantee that they have booked sufficient space for the day.

That may have been a satisfactory tactic in most years. This year there might be a problem. If everyone who I expect to book does so, then I've definitely got a problem. I plan the field. If I don't have enough space then someone has to go without - and those late bookings are at risk. Cheques for another 10 stalls arrived this morning. That's great for the Donkey Derby and the charities that we raise the funds for, but it means that we are already close to capacity and I'm concerned that some of our regular stallholders are in for a small shock.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sulky being led to the Start line

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The 2005 Champion Jockey

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Trade Stalls

My major role is the sale of pitches to trade stallholders. It is still about 6 weeks to the event, but already I have taken bookings from 40 organisations for 48 pitches. I'm aware of another 3 organisations who want an additional 17 pitches so I am already close to capacity.

This is a good thing - pressure on capacity means that I have more flexibility on pricing next year.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Press Release

Donkeys run for the 40th time this year

This year’s Sandhurst Donkey Derby, on the May Bank Holiday, Monday 29th May, promises to be bigger and better than ever before. This will be the 40th running of this popular family event.

Chairman of the organising committee, Shane Leslie explains the history of the Donkey Derby: “Our first Donkey Derby was run in the mid 1960s. Numbers attending that first event were just a few hundred but we have recorded over 10,000 in recent years. Over the years it has seen many changes: we now have a wide range of entertainment on the day, but the donkey races are still the focal point of the event and remain very similar to that first year. We have made a lot of effort to preserve the atmosphere of a traditional fun day out for the whole family”.

The centrepiece of the Donkey Derby is, of course, the series of donkey races, where local children can be jockeys for a day, competing for trophies and rosettes. Mums and Dads can have a flutter on their fancied runners at the Tote and every race is sponsored by local businesses in Sandhurst, Crowthorne, Yateley and beyond. There is also a hotly contested race series in which local pubs and other businesses compete in buggies – called “sulkies” – for the Taverners Trot Trophy. As well as a funfair and many other stalls, bouncy castles and rides, the entertainment will include performances by local bands and a display from the Frimley & Camberley Cadet Corps. The final race of the day, at 4:30, will be the Champion Jockey Stakes, for the winning jockeys of all the previous races.

Mr Leslie said, “It takes nearly 10 months of planning and working behind the scenes to organise the Donkey Derby. We want the people of Sandhurst and the surrounding area to have a great day out. We are very grateful for the wholehearted support of the Town Council in our efforts and for their assistance with facilities for all our visitors. We hope to see many newcomers to this family event, as well as our faithful supporters who attend year after year”. Leslie concluded, “This year promises to be the best Donkey Derby ever. This is a great Family Fun Day, and it gives an opportunity for many charities to raise funds for their good causes”.

The Donkey Derby will be held in the Bull and Butcher field on Yorktown Road Sandhurst. Gates open at 12:00, the first race is at 1:30 and the fun continues through the afternoon. There is plenty of free car parking in the adjacent field. Admission at the gate is £2 for adults and 50p for children under 15, a free programme per family group will also be available at the gate while stocks last.

General Information

The Sandhurst Donkey Derby is a major community event in the Sandhurst area of Berkshire and it raises funds for both local and national charitable causes. It takes place at the Bull & Butcher field in Sandhurst on the May Bank holiday Monday - which is always the last Monday of the month. Over the years it has developed into one of the largest annual events in the local region. Attendance can vary, depending on the weather, but it has been over 10,000 in recent years.