MORE than 20,000 people from across the country are expected to descend on a giant field in the Ribble Valley over the weekend to celebrate the return of one of Britain’s oldest and biggest agricultural shows.

Salesbury Hall in Ribchester is hosting the Royal Lancashire Show, and yesterday's opening day saw people from London, Manchester, Cumbria, as well as Lancashire, watch a wide variety of events, including the Shetland Pony Grand National. The Thwaites shire horses were also on show.

A dozen men parachuted into the arena as part of a display by the Red Devils display, and there was also a superhero wheel of death, featuring Captain America and Batman.

More than 100 stallholders pitched their tents, including brewers, farmers, chefs, firefighters, showmen and car dealers, for seven hours yesterday.

Chairman of the Royal Lancashire Show, Colin Mustoe, who has been involved in the running of the event since last year, said: “It’s gone very well so far.

“There are lot of differences in this show compared to the last.

"We have professional show jumpers, more animals than before and a 50 per cent increase in the number of stalls.

“This is my second year now and I’m looking to get the show back to where it used to be. We are getting it back to the roots of what it is all about.”

Animals and birds on display include owls, eagles, horses, ponies, sheep, cattle and goats.

Horus Birds of Prey owner Paul Walters, 47, and wife Linda, 55, both from Leyland, showcased 10 different types of birds, including owls and eagles.

Mrs Walters said: “This is the biggest show I’ve personally been involved with.

"We are happy to be here.

“It has been fantastic showcasing our birds in the countryside ring."

Some of the most popular stalls were those selling food and drink.

Brewer Claire Bowles, from Burnley, and assistant Molly Warburton, from Lancaster, had set up a stall in the Celebrity Kitchen selling a range of gins, including award-winning Industrial Strength gin, whinberry gin and signature gin.

Ms Bowles, 34, owner of Batch Brew, on Coal Clough Lane, said: “We wanted to go to somewhere bigger than ever before.

“We are reasonably well known in Lancashire and we love talking to different people.

"We find that once people try out our range of gins, they're hooked."

Will Edhouse, 27, from Halifax, who works for the Crusty Pie Company, said: “It’s the first time we’ve been here and loved it so far.

“We attend over 200 events a year and thought to ourselves, why not try it?"

Fire and rescue officers from the Darwen division had also made the trip to Ribchester and children were testing out their equipment and trying on their outfits.

Firefighter Shaun Murray, 56, from Darwen, said:”It’s the first time the Darwen division has attended the event. It’s nice to be out for the day and let the children have a play with the equipment that we have here.”

Some spectators, who were visiting from all over the country, were making the trip to Ribchester for the first time and said they were enjoying the ‘great’ event.

Visitors Stefan Townson and Arnas Ramanauskas, both 16, from Nelson, said: “We just heard about if from friends and it sounded really fun."

Missy Curry, 40, and husband Dave, 41, from London, had made the 225-mile trip to Lancashire for a short holiday.

After watching the Flyin Ryan Motorcycle Act, the first-time showgoers said: “The show was amazing to watch."

“We come from London and are staying in Hurst Green. We decided to come here because we used to live in Lancashire and we have been looking for things to do and fortunately an event like this cropped up. It was the right decision to come here.”

Dennis Swift, 67, from Lower Darwen, said: “I used to come to the show when I was a teenager but haven’t been since.

“My wife is off doing shopping while I’m watching the horses then looking around the agricultural stalls.”