Saturday, February 23, 2019

End of show season

October 1, 2018 by  
Filed under Fen Tiger

Fen Tiger sings the praises of another successful summer of country shows.

I am going off on a slight tangent this month. Now harvest is well and truly behind us, another event in the farming calendar has also finished: the country show season.

The show season runs from May into September. The distinctive showground smells always meet you as you draw into the car park – diesel and engine fumes, animal smells (mostly from the rear end) and the smell of freshly cooked bacon and donuts.

The sounds of the shows are always the same too. The farmers’ chatter, animal noises, children laughing or crying. And the voice from the tannoy – is it the same person who commentates at every event?

Many believe the country show belongs to the farming community. But it is slowly changing. Yes, there are tweed waistcoats, the pheasant feather in the hats, the wellington boots with the odd farm overall, but more and more the shows are catering for a wider range of client.

Tattoos and breakdowns

The tattoo parlour has appeared. So has the car breakdown service desperate for your money. What was once a show for the best cattle, sheep and any other farm animal you can mention has now diversified. Although the horse and rider still takes centre stage.

In fact, the vast majority of shows seem to have the centre ring full of horses and ponies of all descriptions. Mabe I long for those long forgotten gems like the best marrow or cucumber – the biggest sugar beet or the best looking tomato.

As I wander around the shows I cannot help to notice that all food outlets are covered. And where have all the ladies gone who so carefully arrange those wonderful flowers into so many shapes? Is the WI still going strong and what about all their lovely cakes?

In their place is food from all over the world. It seems to fill every available space. Perhaps people come to a show to enjoy their weekend lunch, have a drink and ice cream and then return home.

I take my hat off to those inventive new ideas such as the strongest cheddar I have ever tasted. And to the young couple who are selling organic meat to raise money for a year off from university so they can travel the world.

But heaven forbid anybody who does not conform to the farmers’ protocol. There is a system to conform to. Walking around, you must plan your route according to who has free drinks, or who you buy your chicken feed from, or who provides the best free lunch.

It is important in the farming calendar to sometimes be seen and not heard. Shows are one of these times. It is about the farmer appearing to have his pound of flesh in cups of tea or cake.

It is also time for farmers to mingle alongside like-minded folk, chatting about the weather, prices and lately leaving the European Union. Not especially exciting talk, but that is what us farmers do.

Stiff competition

Shows are the culmination of a season’s work They may not be on Sky TV but a lot of effort goes into the competitions – especially the livestock. Cups and shields won or lost mean everything and add value to farming families.

It can also be a time for quiet reflection – until you ask a question about vintage machinery. There is no stopping the joy or the conversation when two people discover a mutual interest in something that time has nearly forgotten.

And then, at the end of the day they are over – until the next year. And like farming, the whole show cycle begins again – and preparations get under way to deliver the best of British entertainment again in 12 months time.

One thing is for sure, changing times or not, I would miss my local show if it ever disappeared.

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