Organising the Blenheim International Horse Trials is an all year round event - although in the winter months it's a tiny team of just the Event Director (Mandy) and the part time Event Secretary (Sally) ! Until spring starts to arrive and the Course Builders come back....
April - The build process for this years event has started in earnest ! The retail village layout is finalised, we are contacting our army of volunteers to make sure they have the dates in the diary and are willing and able to help ( see visitor info jobs at Blenheim if you are keen to be on the team!) and we are confirming our media plans and putting our thinking caps to come up with good promotional ideas.
The advance booking leaflet and all ticket literature have been updated and now gone to print and badges, passes and car parking permits ordered - always a big discussion about who is having which colours!!!
Already we have tons of entries for the Pony Club and Riding Club Challenge (XC and SJ) competitions and Sally is booking some exciting attractions for the Blenheim attractions arena.
less exciting tasks are the FEI paperwork, BE schedules and insurance quotes and Health and Safety forms which all have to be addressed...
Out in the park the boys have been putting grass seed down on the verges which bear the brunt of the regular visitor traffic at Blenheim and have cleared some trees and bushes in the woods to make this lighter and airier. The areas which were 'trashed' in 2008 from heavy vehicles have made a fantastic recovery and its almost impossible to see where the worst areas were but there is an onging care programme of seeding, watering and mowing planned over the next few months.
January - March 2009 : A new year a new event. All contractors must be contacted and quotes from them and competitors obtained to make sure the event operates as cost efficiently as possible. Budgets based on these quotes and projections of visitor numbers, facilities required, costs and income are prepared for approval by the British Eventing Board (Blenheim is a stand alone division of British Eventing)
The box office opens for internet advanced bookers and previous advanced customers are mailed. PR campaigns are started and discussions with media owners about promotions and competitions commence.
All Exhibitors and Sponsors are contacted and sent details of the packages that are available to them for the 2009 event. Discussions and meetings are had to make sure that both parties are getting good value from their association and proposals formulated.
Hospitality packages are put together with the new caterer ( a credit crunch version to recognise the curent economic sitaution) and mailled to previous clients and prospects.
Pony Club and Riding Club Team Challenge information is updated and made live and discussions are had about what attractions visitors woud like within the Blenheim Attractions Arena (a big hit on Thurs and Friday in 2008)
Trade stand applications, ticket bookings and PC/RC entries start to flow in!
Officials are mailed and logistic changes to the event planned (In 2009 Blenheim has been awarded a CIC3* - whilst great news for visitors, sponsors and exhibitors this impacts in a big way on the event and must be carefully planned as will require many more officials, volunteers and expense!
On the site all of the jumps, ropes, posts, and site equipment have to be moved to a new storage site. Ground is checked for how it has faired through the winter and the sheep are moved off the event site up to northern pastures. The Palace reopens its doors for visitors and the Palac and Park starts to come to life..
September 2008 - Dec 2008 : Since the 2008 which, due to torrential rain had to be cancelled mid way through, in the office we have spent much of the winter up to our necks in paperwork . Whilst it's cold and dark outside and the Palace is shut to visitors, we beaver away in our office in the old laundry room making refunds to Sponsors, Trade stands, Competitors, and Visitors ,as well as processing all the contractor invoices (who still have to be paid even though the event was abandoned!). The longest task is putting together the insurance claim for the losses made - As anyone knows who has had an insurance claim everything must be documented in writing and proved.
Thankfully, after many weeks all the 'grunt work' is done by the end of the year and we can agree a settlement with the insurers and start work on the event for 2009!
Outside though, a different story - After the 2008 event had to be abandoned it was all systems go to put the grounds back to the pristine condition that the Estate is known for and visitors will expect.
No small task considering many areas of the park resembled the Somme. David Evans and his team spent hours harrowing, rolloing and seeding the grounds - as you can see from the before and after photos ! and then its down to mother nature...