Why the Great Yorkshire Show is more important than ever this year - Sarah Todd

CLIP-CLOPPING hooves on the concrete walkway, piles of muck outside the cattle sheds, queues for the ice-cream vans...

The 2021 Great Yorkshire Show is only a pig’s whisker away; so close it’s possible to picture the stripes on the lawn, hear the intake of breath as the big wall is jumped in the main ring and wonder how much shopping it’s possible to carry back to the car.

It felt like a kind of bereavement when coronavirus claimed the show last year and for the farming and countryside community the fact it’s going ahead will serve as a very important beacon for the return of normal rural life.

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Of course, everything isn’t quite normal yet.

Visitors on the Presidents Lawn, the bandstand and the cattle parade in the main ring at the Great Yorkshire Show in 2019. Picture: Tony Johnson.
Visitors on the Presidents Lawn, the bandstand and the cattle parade in the main ring at the Great Yorkshire Show in 2019. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Exhibitors will have to undertake an even more military operation than normal to get their livestock onto the showground.

There will also be some firm favourites like the Fashion Show and Cookery Theatre missing. We’ll still be, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s easing of restrictions not coming until the week later, in a world of scrabbling around for face coverings and social distancing.

Even with the event now stretched out over four days – Tuesday 13th to Friday 16th – rather than the traditional three, restrictions on numbers (still an impressive 25,000 a day) have meant not everybody who wanted a ticket has been lucky enough to get one.

Members of the organisation behind the show, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, paid their subscriptions last year but, as we all know, there ended up, thanks to the pandemic, being no event to attend.

Thinking aloud, it would maybe be good public relations to give a little something back to those members.

Perhaps some sort of thank you gathering later in the year when restrictions are a thing of the past?

The Yorkshire Show is made up of so much more than numbers on spreadsheets.

There is a tale behind each generation who has worn their admission badge with pride.

Tied onto great grandma’s handbag as she sat in the grandstand listening to the band; knotted in my grandfather’s jacket lapel as he wandered around the then seemingly endless rows of farm machinery.

They mustn’t be forgotten in our modern times of ‘registering online’ and social media posts.

The more mature visitors, so many of them with more than half a century of annual pilgrimages to the Harrogate showground under their belts, must be cherished as part of the very fabric of the show.

As, of course, are the stewards and other volunteers who will – there is no doubt about it – make next week’s event run smoothly.

Proper recognition must also go to the agricultural society’s staff; long may there be a person at the end of the telephone.

A friend of mine said the other week that she felt like ‘Shirley in the show office’ was a new chum she’d spoken to her so often to sort out her tickets.

For many, especially those who are from farms, a visit to the show will be one of the first opportunities to get away from home and be sociable in well over a year.

Our 20 year-old daughter’s eyes lit up the other night when she got going on about all she wants to do and see.

Just like when she was five or six years-old (wedged next to great grandma’s handbag in the grandstand) she has written a shopping list.

There are still raspberry bon-bons from the sweet shop but now instead of Britains farm toys the list includes a fancy pair of wellies and a tweed mini skirt.

“Finally having a reason to get dressed up and see people,” she revealed when her nosey mother asked what she’s most excited about.

A member of the Young Farmers’ Club, she added how much it will mean to friends showing livestock to finally showcase all the hard work they’ve put in since the last show two years ago.

“The thing is, a lot of people’s lives were stopped by Covid but farmers had to carry on working,” she chatted.

“It will be great for them to show the public what they’ve been on with.”

She’s crafty as her enthusiasm made her sentimental mother hand over the keys to the caravan she had bought specifically to take to the show.

Most recently occupied by an Eastern European builder it’s hardly glamping but to say she’s capped to be making a holiday of it is an understatement.

In columns gone by this curmudgeonly correspondent has moaned about slipping of sartorial standards at the show.

The Husband (always one to be awkward and sport something controversial like shorts) has been given a talking to and while we’ve compromised on footwear – comfy boots rather than stiff brogues – he’s under strict instructions to pull his proverbial socks up in deference of the show going ahead.

This will be the 30th year this writer has reported from the show and it’s still an honour.

Yes, there will be a Covid test to take but hell would freeze over before signing into the press pavilion was missed.

Rose-tinted spectacles firmly fixed; memories of some much missed photographers who captured so many of the iconic show images are never far away in this hallowed building.

Think of showjumper Harvey Smith’s halcyon days competing in the main ring.

Anyway, there’s a caravan to clean and a shopping list to write …

Sarah Todd is a former editor of Yorkshire Life magazine. She is a farmer’s daughter, mother and journalist specialising in country life.