Across the country each summer a large number of country shows are organised, celebrating everything that the countryside has to offer, from agriculture and stock judging to country crafts and traditions. Tomorrow, one of the largest shows, The Royal Welsh Show, opens its doors to the public. Today it’s the final day of the Royal Lancashire Show as well as the Yeovil Show and the day of the Crowle Show and the Coniston Country Fair in Cumbria. I was lucky enough to steward at two shows this year – the Suffolk Show and the Tendring Show.
What goes on at a country show?
If you’ve never been to one the best thing to do is simply find out where your nearest show is and go along. There’s usually something for everyone there, no matter your age or interest. Compared with a lot of days out you get a lot for your money at a country show, and you get to help traditions stay alive.
Generally speaking the events are primarily outdoor agricultural shows with judging of animals and an opportunity for farmers to show off their hard work for the year and to win prizes so that they can attract customers for their breeding livestock, and perhaps even be able to charge more money for this stock. There are also a large number of trade stands representing a large variety of agricultural and non agricultural dealers, from machinery to fertilisers and farm equipment.
However, in recent years the scope has broadened enormously and you can now find trade stands on almost anything you could imagine. There is usually also showjumping, birds of prey displays, food fairs and tents, education tents, conservation areas and representatives from conservation organisations, funfairs and sometimes even military displays.
Where are they held?
Most agricultural societies (who run the shows) have bought up land so that they can have a permanent site for their show. Before this, they used to move around different farms or big country houses. The first show to have a permanent site was the Great Yorkshire Show which is held in Harrogate.
Where are the largest shows held?
Some of the largest shows include the Royal Welsh Show, the Royal Highland Show, the Devon County Show and the Kent Country Show. The Royal Norfolk Show is claimed as being the largest two day show in the country.
The Royal Show, which sadly no longer takes place, used to be the largest, representing interests from all over the country.
Check out some of the smaller shows though as well. The Tendring Show, a smaller one, is one of my favourites (not that I’m biased being local!).
A very brief history of country shows
The very first country show apparently took place in Wolsingham, County Durham, in 1763. Originally the point was for rural people to get together, celebrate their work and interests and learn new things. For a few hundred years they took place on an ad hoc basis and it wasn’t really until the 1960s that the agricultural societies made them much bigger by acquiring permanent sites. This led to a growth in popularity and professionalism and to millions of people who live in towns and cities flocking to shows. They became a great opportunity for rural and urban people to connect with each other and celebrate rural traditions. A lot of shows have now been running for 100 years or more.