A special parade featuring period costume and farming machinery from across the decades at Ryedale Show demonstrated just how much agriculture has evolved since the mid-19th century.
Yet for all the changes, shows like this have remained at the centre of rural communities, and few for longer than Ryedale which was held for the 150th time today, and its 50th at Welburn Park in Kirkbymoorside.
Early signs suggested visitor numbers were well up on last year when dank weather saw just over 10,000 people call in. This time cloudy but warm conditions made the showfield a popular place to be.
Plenty of extra features set this milestone show aside, not least the attendance of the Duchess of Kent. Although in recovery from a fall which has left her with a broken collarbone, the Duchess, who was born and grew up at nearby Hovingham Hall paid a visit with her nephew Sir William Worsley, an arable farmer who now lives at the Hall himself, acting as her escort.
The Duchess was greeted by dignitaries, including joint show presidents Sheila and Chris Leckenby, before she was presented with a bouquet of posies by the presidents’ two-year-old granddaughter, Ella Leckenby and the show chairman’s granddaughter, Ebony Fairburn, aged four.
As the prizes were handed out in the highly competitive livestock and equine classes, it fell to the Duchess to present the prizes in the offbeat children’s mounted fancy dress contest.
I like to think that it is the best one-day show in England.Chris Leckenby, joint show president of the 150th Ryedale Show
After a tour of the showground by buggy, the senior royal returned to the main ring to present 16 supporters of the show with life membership awards.
The roll call included a horse steward with almost unbroken service since the 1960s and the chairman of the produce committee who has supported the show for 35 years.
Christine Barber, the show’s commentator, said it was down to the “unstinting” work of people such as those honoured in the ring that has kept the show going for so many years.
Show co-president Mr Leckenby, who himself has played a part in the show for more than 40 years, said: “I think it’s staying true to its agricultural roots and its rural setting that has made the show a success for so many years.
“I like to think that it is the best one-day show in England and I’m very proud to be asked to be president with my wife for this special show.”
The livestock classes featured quality animals from across the region and from a record 1,112 sheep entries, Steven Kirby, 21, of Barstow Hall Farm near Northallerton, picked up his third supreme sheep championship in just four days with his 18-month-old Texel shearling ewe.
The supreme dairy cow was a Friesian shown by Rosie Howarth, 19, of Wilton, near Pickering and the best beef animal was chosen as Bishopton-based Heather and Jim Marks’ junior Limousin heifer which was shown in the ring by their stocksman Chris Strom.
Another special feature of the 150th show was the revival of the presentation of the Coronation Cup. Awarded to the ‘champion of champions’, it fell to Hartcliff Rihanna, a shire horse shown by Robert Bedford.
Hovingham estate owner Sir William Worsley declared Ryedale Show a success and said the Duchess enjoyed a “lovely” day.
Sir William told The Yorkshire Post: “She was brought up at Hovingham and used to come to the show as a child so when she was asked to come for the 150th anniversary show, she said yes. She doesn’t tend to do royal events anymore so it’s been a real treat.
“Agriculture is really important in this part of the world,” he added.
“It’s an industry that is incredibly tough at the moment, prices are not good and there is all the uncertainty over Brexit, but what’s brilliant is that this is an opportunity to show that agriculture is vital.”