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MMD > Archives > April 2004 > 2004.04.10 > 06Prev  Next

Visiting the Great Dorset Steam Fair
By Ron Schmuck

Hi Susan Robinson and friends!  I had the great pleasure of visiting
the Great Dorset Steam Fair last year, 2003, which was it's 35th
anniversary.  I have the great luck of knowing Mr. Boz Oram, who is not
only a regular at the Great Dorset but also a showman extraordinaire.

Boz and I traveled to the Great Dorset in his antique truck which also
houses the wonderful Hooghuys organ.  Attached to the organ truck was
his 1890's showman's living quarters, which was to become my home for
the next 5 days.  Wonderful!

I have to tell you that after living right at the Great Dorset for five
days, day and night, there is no other show on earth like it.  I walked
well over 65 miles in the 5 days and enjoyed every minute.  I counted
well over 100 large organs and lots of smaller organs of all sizes.
I have been to many of the best Organ Meets in the world and none are
as complete as the Great Dorset.

If you like the big organs then this is the place -- not only will you
see them play but many have complete show fronts which have full shows
complete with the dancing girls or "Paraders", as they were known at
the turn of the century, all accompanied by the mechanical organs.

Many shows have very elaborate gardens complete with waterfalls and
ponds in which, magically, water spurts forth and lights change color
in time with the music.  All of the shows are run regularly so you can
get a chance to see them all if you have the time.

To me the beauty of seeing one of these shows is the ever-present
"Showman's Engine" sitting out front, all polished and glistening and
working!  Yes, I said working!  Steam and smoke and wonderful music,
what more can I say!  Actually, a few of the evenings were cool and
I always found myself cuddled up nice and close to a big working steam
engine and listening to the greatest music on earth for hours at a

You will see plowing of fields by all methods including steam.  Horse
shows, military equipment, old and new -- I climbed all through one of
Britons latest tanks!  Motorcycles of all ages, even a "Wall of Death"
display on the antique midway, which is exactly as I remember seeing
my first one, over 45 years ago, and this one is more terrifying with
four cycles operating in the same barrel.  Next year they hope to be
doing the "Wall of Death" on a steam motorcycle -- yikes!

The fair actually has a modern and antique midway.  The rides in the
antique midway are all steam operated and it is located beside the
showman's row, which is a place for all owners of showman's engines
to gather, especially in the evening.  They move their steam monsters,
some with wheels well over 8 feet high, into a long line which runs
the full length of the field.

Each engine is working, running generators for powering either rides
or their own lighting systems.  The glow of the fires in the engines
and the continuous melody of the steam engine as it chugs along is
something that can only be experienced by being there.  This is the
place to have your camera ready to capture the operators and the new
steam apprentices at their best.  All are covered in soot, talking
about steam and enjoying every second of the night.

The modern midway has all the latest and wildest rides in the world,
believe me.  I tried most of them but I still like the wonderful
antique steam yachts best of all.

I simply could not mention all of the wonderful things I had the
pleasure of seeing while at the Great Dorset.  The night life along
with the organ music and steam engines is also enhanced with many beer
tents which all have great entertainment, all the way from complete
vaudeville shows to the latest rock bands.  One of the best for crowd
watching was "Dr. Busker".

My favorite tent was taken up by beer barrels, stacked 4 and 5 high
and running the full length of the tent.  Each 15 feet represented
a different beer company, so you just go to your favorite beer 'area'
and order your brew.  I was sitting at a table with folks who could
not agree which was the best beer in the tent so I, as a Canadian, was
asked to be the judge.  Well, after four hours of checking out the
local beer and then a full show by "Dr. Busker" and then more judging
of beer, well, all I can say is I love them all.  The next evening
I tried the cider -- now that will be another article for sure.

I guess what I am trying to say is that if you have not visited the
Great Dorset Steam Fair, then I say do it soon because before too long
all this will be gone.  Soon you will _not_ be able to see this sort of
fun because of all the new laws for safety and regulation that are
springing up everywhere in the world, even here in Canada.  I think you
know what I am talking about.  This show is very safe considering the
combination of live steam and large crowds of people young and old.

I would suggest you contact Boz Oram at <>
Boz is also partner with Linda Hardiman in a travel company called
"History in Harmony", http://  email
<>  Perhaps if enough people contact them
they will run a tour to the Great Dorset?  They are running a tour to
the upcoming KDV anniversary in Holland this coming May 29 to June 6,
and I plan to be on board their tour for another great adventure.

Good Travels
Ron Schmuck

(Message sent Fri 9 Apr 2004, 15:17:19 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Dorset, Fair, Great, Steam, Visiting

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