The summer show season is now upon us as the sector opens its arms to the farming and general public.
Big and small, local and national events are being staged until the autumn as agricultural showcases its wares and customs.
Some of the events are centuries old while other have been created from the amalgamation of smaller societies. However in all cases the shows constantly reinvent themselves to survive.
The imagination and positivity shown by organisers has been a breath of fresh air in an industry often labelled as conservative.
Today much emphasis is put on making the event more family oriented to make it more educational to the huge numbers of townspeople who no longer have a direct link to farming. Conservation and sustainability have increasingly become bigger aspects in the showground layout. While the food produced from farm crops takes centre stage in cookery demonstrations, farmers market stalls and fast food outlets.
However it’s not that long ago when the show was for the farming community only and although many townsfolk went it was because they knew the industry in one way or another. Some events are still held on week days but more and more have gone to a weekend format.
Having a show through the week meant a holiday for farmers and their workers. The wives too loved a day at the show as sometimes it was where they could see the latest household gadgets. A fine hat was a must for the ladies while the faithful bunnet did many of the men, some more fashion conscious individuals would wear a fedora.
Of course this was all supposing the weather was fine otherwise it was galoshes, Macintoshes and umbrellas as the folk picked their way through the mud.
Much to their disgust, the kids had to get smartened up too with girl’s hair tied in ribbons and the boy’s hair oiled and combed flat to the side. Fine weather saw the girls in pretty dresses unless they were taking part in the Gymkhana when itchy tweed jackets and baggy jodhpurs were the order of the day.
Boys could be decked out in a suit with short trousers and despite much uncomfortable embarrassment as to their attire, once into the showground they were off. Glad to escape the clutches of mum and dad after the frustrations of queuing to get in the car park and getting through the admission gate they were off on a mission.
With agreed times and rendezvous points for meeting up for a lunch of curled up sandwiches and fizzy lemonade the boys usually headed for the machinery lines. In the past there were more machinery dealers in any given area and often more than one selling the same brand. This often led to excellent hospitality for customers old and new including tractor drivers who salesmen often tried to use to influence employers as to what make and model he should buy.
While the menfolk were being schmoozed the boys, thinking all the salesmen’s heads were turned, attacked the displays of brochures and giveaways. Armfuls of leaflets, pens, pencils, penknives and badges – lots of badges – were all collected. While some lucky sons of big farmers were given it all from the branch manager without question other boys had to use stealth.
Others took a chance to climb on board a tractor for a wee drive. Some firms allowed it, others did not and when lockable tractor cabs arrived this caused the dealers to be more selective as to who they let in.
In the days of long lines of machinery the boys could spend a great deal of time there but if the military were present then the boys flocked to that element too. However there were some boys who preferred to be in the livestock lines helping family members to exhibit stock.
Girls went with mum round the SWRI tent to see the handicraft and baking displays and possibly the beekeeping and poultry tents too. However at the day’s end all would meet up to drag dad out of the beer tent and go for a much needed ice cream on the way to the gate. If you were lucky you got high tea on the way home. Has much changed? Enjoy the shows.