Video/Gallery: Ipswich Town Open Day attracts record-breaking 8,000 crowd as Tractor Boy wins Mascot Race
A record-breaking crowd of more than 8,000 Ipswich Town fans flocked to Portman Road for the club’s annual open day today.
Young families and seasoned Blues veterans enjoyed a day of fun activities, from a cookery school, dance performances and football tournaments to watching the first-team train on the main pitch, at the celebrated community engagement event.
“It has been absolutely fantastic and the atmosphere is brilliant,” said Nancy Bulbeck, 69, of Robin Drive, Ipswich, who took along grandchildren Owen, five, and Jude, three.
Town fan Owen, who picked the giant bouncy castle as his favourite activity, said: “I’ve had a great day and want to see Ipswich get promoted at Wembley next year.”
A total of 8,040 people visited the open day, almost doubling the previous record of 4,500 set last year. Large queues stretched along Sir Alf Ramsey Way and back around Portman Road throughout the morning.
Ian Milne, managing director of Ipswich Town, said: “There is a real sense of togetherness between the club and the fans at the moment I think.
“We’re trying to get the old fans back, the ones that have maybe drifted away, and also to get the new generation of youngsters in the town and the area supporting their local club.
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“And it was great today to see so many kids wearing Ipswich shirts rather than Manchester United, Chelsea and others.”
Town season-ticket holder Max Wardley, 42, of Claydon, whose six-year-old son Sam scored three goals in an under-sevens tournament, said: “It’s really good the club puts on community events like these, and I think they could do even more really.
“But the club is definitely promoting itself better now. There was a low point a few years ago but they have picked it up.”
Amy Fountain, of Cavendish Street, Ipswich, said her children Charlie, six, and Catherine, three, are now bigger Town fans.
The 30-year-old said: “It is a free event, which is great during the school holidays as everything else costs a lot, and is community based.
“There were massive queues this morning, which shows just how popular it is getting. We have really enjoyed it, especially seeing Princess Elsa and Belle from Frozen.”
Live Well Suffolk were among the charities engaging with visitors at various stalls. James Colchester, weight management practitioner at the health charity, said: “It’s really important for us to have events like these to reach the community as we can’t get numbers like these just off the street.”
The Sunrise Appeal, run by The Ipswich Hospital Charity, aiming to raise £100,000 to deliver better care for seriously ill babies and children, was also raising awareness and fundraising.
Kate Ashton, head of charity, said: “We would like to say a big thank you to Ipswich Town for recently becoming an official club charity.”
Speaking after the Town players went through their drills in front of 3,000 fans inside the stadium, Blues manager Mick McCarthy said: “It was great. I thought the lads put on a good show for them. I asked (assistant manager) Terry Connor to come up with a session that would entertain everyone and he did just that.
“That’s what we do all the time – passing, moving, finishing, then a game. You’re practising your techniques, your skills and your disciplines.”
Town defender Christophe Berra added: “It’s always good to get the kids at a training session. You score a goal and it gets a nice cheer!”
Meanwhile, Tractor Boy destroyed his rivals in the Mascot Race and declared: “I am the greatest.”
Our mascot, who finished a controversial third at the Suffolk Show, said he “gained redemption” when storming to victory in the race on the hallowed turf at Portman Road.
Around 3,000 Town fans in the East of England Co-op stand cheered on ‘Tractor Bolt’ as he made a mad dash from the half-way line to the North Stand goal in blistering fashion, leaving in his wake the nine other mascots.
Speaking after his victory, Tractor Boy said: “It was the best moment of my life.
“I was under a lot of pressure to win, but I knew I was in good form. Bring on the Rio 2016 Olympics.”