What does it take to organise an agricultural show in North Yorkshire?

Christine Thompson - Ryedale Show
Christine Thompson - Ryedale Show

The agricultural show is one of North Yorkshire's favourite events, but exactly how much work goes on behind the scenes?

We talked to some of our busiest show secretaries to find out.

Gena Douglas - Thornton-le-Dale Show

Gena Douglas - Thornton-le-Dale Show

Ryedale - July 30

Ryedale show is one of the largest one day shows in North Yorkshire, running in excess of 90 classes for horses and ponies. It is located at Welburn park on the A170 near Helmsley.

Christine Thompson, General Secretary, has arguably one of the best views of any show secretary in the country, with a purpose built office which overlooks the North Yorkshire countryside.

It was a gorgeous sunny day, and Christine expressed the hope that the weather will be the same for the show itself. It’s a sentiment echoed by show secretaries across the county.

Daphne Jackson - Egton Show

Daphne Jackson - Egton Show

She explained how the show comes together:

“Our first planning meeting takes place at the end of October for the Finance and General Purpose Committee. We check entry fees and set trade stand prices.

“The Livestock Committee meet at the end of November and we try to have all of the judges sorted for each class by Christmas.

“In January we invite last year’s trade stands to see if they would like a place this year, we’re in a fortunate position in that we have a waiting list if they say no.

“Entries close at the end of June. Fortunately, more and more people are entering online, but it still took me two ten-hour days to input the entries which came in on paper.

“Each year we’re getting more people attending, last year the weather was good and we had 15,000 people here. We’re a traditional agricultural show but we have to move into the modern world. This year we’ll be able to take card payments on the gate.

“We’re a non-profit charity and income is very dependent on the weather.” explained Christine “On a wet year we lose money, so we have to keep a contingency in place for that. But if we have a good year, such as 2018, we are able to give charitable donations to local schools, last year that amounted to £8,000.”

How do the organisers keep everyone involved?

“We always hold a buffet supper for the helpers after the AGM in March, it’s a good way of building the sense of community. We are very fortunate as we have 120 volunteers who help to set the show up. We also have a hog roast the Sunday before, which allows us to catch everyone for a health and safety update and gives us a chance to sort out any final creases.”

And what does Christine look forward to the most?

“The Grand Parade,” she smiles: “once I see that, I know my job is done and I can relax.”

Thornton-le-Dale - August 7

Membership Secretary, Gena Douglas, has certainly taken on a challenge this year. Not only has she been deeply involved in the preparations for the village’s centenary show, but she has also been one of the main contributors to the commemorative book which has been made to celebrate the last 100 years of the show.

Sitting in her relaxing garden, she explained how the people of Thornton-le-Dale come together to put on a show.

“We have a committee of 45 and meet with them every month. The first meeting takes place in September and we look at what went well and what we could have done better.

“We look at any class amendments we may like to make, and check that we have the necessary stewards and judges to hold our classes.”

The show has certainly increased in popularity over the last century. Gina told us more:

“At the first show there were just 400 people, but now we expect 15,000+, this does cause us an issue with traffic management, however, in recent years we have employed an agency to handle that side of things, and we’re finding it’s working much better.

Does Gena have any special memories of the show? She paused and thought briefly before a slow smile spread across her face:

“Going with my dad when I was a little girl and seeing all the rabbits and then the bantams and finally the sheepdog trials”

And if she could have one wish for show day?

“The weather,” she answers with a grin: “if we could always have nice weather.”

Egton - August 21

Meeting Daphne Jackson, General Secretary, is quite an experience. She enters the room like a dynamo, full of energy and life and ideas, you certainly get the impression that this is a woman who gets things done. But where does she start?

“Well the show is in August, so we meet in September to discuss what went wrong. Last year was great because we had wall to wall sunshine, but often we’re saying it’s been ‘too muddy or too boggy’

“From October to December we hold the section meetings, the section secretary and stewards dissect the previous show, there’s always something that can be tweaked”

“In January we prepare the minutes for February’s AGM where we look at the schedule and any new classes and then make sure we have judges for them.”

You get the impression that Daphne wants to deliver the best show possible, she said:

“In 2019, we moved the cattle ring, so that it was next to where they’re parked and tied up which made things much better.

“We also have 15 spaces for disabled parking at the top end of the ring, so those who are unable to leave their cars can sit in and watch “

The week of the show is hectic to say the least, Daphne gave us an insight:

“On Monday I do the banking and sort out the prize money, Tuesday we set up the show field and the secretary tent, Wednesday, the day of the show, we’re on site from 7.00am until 6-6.30pm. Thursday, we clear the showground and take down the marquees. Friday, I type up results and send them out.”

Fortunately Egton Show is always the week before the August Bank Holiday, Daphne is glad of the rest.

“If I had a wish list, it would definitely be for the weather to be fine in the couple of weeks leading up to the show. Oh, and a bigger field so we could have separate rings for different things.”