The Great Yorkshire Show, which had to be cancelled last year to huge disappointment, was back today with strict measures in place to adhere to the Government’s coronavirus regulations.
But as the brass bands played and the cattle brayed, there was a great sense of ceremony with visitors returning to the Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate.
This is an institution that spans across farming families and generations, having served for many over the years as their annual holiday and great summer gathering.
For others, it is a return to a childhood tradition, and the making of new ones.
“It’s fantastic to be here, it really, really is,” said Tina Metcalfe, of Doncaster, who had brought her granddaughters Belle, aged nine, and Bonnie, seven. “It’s just so good to be back.
"This show is the best show – you feel the excitement as soon as you see that Ferris wheel in the distance.
“With all the work that’s gone into it, they’ve done a brilliant job. I’m so pleased they’ve managed to put it on, because it takes a lot of organising. Everybody here is so pleased.”
This year, for the first time in the show’s history, it is to run over four days until Friday. Capacity has been capped at 26,000 a day, to keep numbers down.
The impact has proven immense, in changing the feel for a show famed for its bustle as the largest of its kind.
With the new rules, there are less crowds, and shorter queues, and for many people present this proved to be a bonus.
For Sandra Wood, whose daughter Michaela used to compete in the showjumping, it is a success just to see so many smiling faces.
“It’s so nice – to be out, to see people,” she said. “Something like this, it means a lot to people. It makes everybody feel better – it’s what we’ve all missed.”
For the Simms family, from Ellingstring, near Ripon, the children were torn between spending time at the cattle sheds and the farriers.
It was all about the horses for five-year-old Pippa, while William, aged seven, had his eyes on the championships.
Tomorrow he is turning his hand to be a young handler at the show, with a Gloucester Old Spot named Strawberry who was his prize for trying hard in home-schooling.
“They are our future farmers,” said his mother, Rowan Simms, who, with husband Tom, runs Waterfall Farm.
“You need to get their interest early on, to keep them keen. That’s what the show gives young people. They will remember so much of today.”
The Simms are first generation farmers who ‘caught the bug’ after a first visit to the GYS in 2017, with the suspense now having built up over two years.
“This is the shop window,” said Mrs Simms, with the family to show seven pigs this year. “We’ve been buzzing for weeks, but it isn’t until you get here that it starts to feel real.”
Eric Barrett first came to the Great Yorkshire Show as a 15-year-old boy. Now aged 77, he remembers the showground when it was surrounded by fields, and when families’ catering would come in gifts of cake from each stand.
It is a long association, he reflected, first as a visitor and then as an exhibitor when he worked with farming machinery.
Watching forestry carving today, he said it’s “grand” to be back. He has only ever missed two shows when they were cancelled last year and in 2001 during the foot-and-mouth crisis.
“For people in the agricultural fraternity, this is their showcase for the year,” Mr Barrett said. “It’s lovely to be back, even if it’s quieter. It’s a part of your childhood, I suppose.”
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