Okehampton Show – just incredible

Okehampton Show 2021 © Chris Saville

By Alison Heywood – Show Secretary

Show day… what can I say? I have been involved in the agricultural show industry for more years than I care to remember, but it was my first as Show Secretary of Okehampton Show.

Two words sum it up, ‘just incredible’.

The preceding months to the Show were just a roller coaster, with many meetings, phone calls and several draft plans of how we could go ahead with the Show and ensure it was a success. Waiting for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to make his announcements while trying to second guess what he might declare next added to
the mix.

I am very aware that as a Show we were not the only organisation or business that were in the same predicament, and this was central to the decision of the directors to go ahead with the Show if at all possible, combined with a need to support our local community and agricultural industry.

It did mean that many final plans, bookings and arrangements could only be made within the last six weeks of the Show, not how I generally like to organise an event!

We could not have done it without the support of our many suppliers, many of whom adjusted their standard terms and conditions to help us to help them, and fielded my many phone calls and emails of ‘can we just adjust, cancel, add?’. The day started early just before 6am, it was clear and bright, the showground looked just amazing in the early morning sunshine with its beautiful backdrop of Dartmoor. The stock trundled in and the many trade stands made their finishing touches to their displays.

We won’t dwell on the mizzle that came down in the morning, it didn’t appear to affect people’s cheerful spirits and cleared by early afternoon and we finished the day bathed in sunshine.

The public came out in support in their thousands in a steady stream throughout the morning and early afternoon. Everywhere we looked there were people meeting and greeting friends and family, many of whom hadn’t seen each other for several months. I don’t think it overstates it to say that it was uplifting and heart-warming to witness.

The Hummingbirds outside The Moorlander stand © Chris Saville

There were the inevitable hiccups during the day, all part of organising a large event, and for these I apologise, but we have been overwhelmed by the number of kind messages and emails of thanks from people attending the Show, whether they were competing, exhibiting or just having a day out.

Thank you to our President, John Shields, and his wife Jacqueline, it was a pleasure to work with them and I hope they enjoyed their year in office. So how does it all happen? Sometimes I wonder myself.

The planning starts immediately after the last Show with a ‘wash up’ committee meeting in September to discuss what went well and what didn’t go so well! From there we can start to make plans for the next year. Regular meetings of the Directors are held throughout the year where we discuss developing plans and issues. The depth of the behind-the-scenes work is hard to describe, except to say there is a heck of a lot of it!

This is all supported by a huge team of volunteers, some of whom I felt were my fairy godmothers as tasks and things to be done, were ‘just done’, often without me realising. Everything from putting out tables and chairs, dustbins, putting up rings and signs, stewarding, litter picking or gently reminding me if I’d missed something. Thank you to you all.

We always welcome new volunteers, so please get in touch by email or via the website if you would like to become part of the volunteer crew for next year’s Show. It is a great way to become part of the community and meet and make new friends. Without exception we are a friendly bunch. So to sum up, an incredible day and after a short rest, the planning begins for next year!

Author: Laura White

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