This week Doncaster once again celebrates the famous St Leger Festival, in what is the borough’s biggest week of the year.
The whole festival has grown enormously in recent years, bringing thousands of visitors to the borough, contributing millions to the economy and offering fantastic entertainment.
One of the great things about the festival is it showcases our town at its best. The horseracing at the racecourse is first class. The showpiece is the St Leger Stakes itself, the world’s oldest Classic, but it is not the only highlight of the week. Races such as the Champagne Stakes, Portland Handicap, Park Hill Stakes and the Doncaster Cup, the oldest race in the world currently run under the Rules of Horse Racing, date back as far as 1766. We should celebrate that and try to further grow horseracing and the equine industry in Doncaster.
The racing starts on Wednesday, and includes the Leger Legends race where racegoers will get the chance to see retired stars such as AP McCoy getting back in the saddle.
Of course, St Leger Festival week is not just about horseracing. With over 200 events and activities, there is something for everyone. This year there will once again be 10 days of entertainment ranging from the 2015 British Jet Ski Championships final at Lakeside to live music, dancing, comedy nights and fun fairs. The Roman soldiers will be back again, people will be enjoying Champagne breakfasts at venues across the town and there will be opera in Regent Square.
With more than 60,000 people passing through the turnstiles over four days at the racecourse, hotels will be full, and shops and restaurants will be bustling with customers. It is not difficult to see why the St Leger Festival is estimated to contribute around £15million to the local economy. Along with other local attractions such as the Yorkshire Wildlife Park, which is now receiving well over 500,000 visitors every year, tourism really is playing an increasingly important role in our economy, providing jobs for local people, not to mention great leisure opportunities for residents.
We shouldn’t forget other popular attractions either, such as Cusworth Hall, Brodsworth Hall, Conisbrough Castle, Doncaster’s Markets and Cast, our new theatre.
All in all, St Leger Week is a vibrant, thriving festival that contributes enormously to both British horseracing and our borough.
It is something that everyone in Doncaster can celebrate and be proud of.
I hope you enjoy it.