There’s no people like show people. Livestock shows, from the smallest village affair to the grandest of them all, are the heartbeat of so many like-minded people’s lives.
I’m a showaholic, born and bred loving every part of them, from the quaint country show built on baler twine and home baking to the largest stage of all, in the ring with the professionals, seeing the extraordinary quality and dedication displayed by stockmen and women.
The world for me can keep its Las Vegas’ and Costa Del Sol’s, the shows are the social highlight every year in our household.
I have lifelong friends met through showing, many live hundreds of miles away and we meet once a year and this year I have missed them. The bonds and friendships made over a warm beer sat on a straw bale are without doubt unbreakable.
In many cases my father took a dram with their fathers and no doubt my children will progress from kicking a football to an occasional medicinal gin with their children. It is the show circle of life. The competitive element runs through it all.
I would be lying if I said it didn’t, but you should never be deceived, the shop window is invaluable and the promotion of your chosen breed of paramount importance, but the real soul of the shows comes from camaraderie and friendship.
Winning brings with it an incredible high but at all shows we see prizes and surprises; what matters is that someone has had their best ever day.
The best stockmen will take the lion’s share and we have some bewilderingly talented show people who are hard to beat. But the beautiful part of showing is that these good folk will immediately offer encouragement and advice to help the new folk try to beat them next time out.
This level of sportsmanship is seen in no other world.
The wonderful mix of society the showing world brings together is what makes it tick.
Regardless of your background, a night in the ‘cattle trailer hotel’ on a flat air bed with a wet sleeping bag firmly places you all on the level.
I have been to the top in the judging ring and stood at the bottom. Both experiences humbled me. I’ve seen grown men cry with elation, 70-year-olds act like they were 17 and grown women drink like sailors.
My children will grow up as showing children. They learn to win and they learn to lose. They make new friends and learn to value old friends. Most importantly, they learn to respect hard work.
The big shows we attend for almost a week and my dedicated partner packs the pickup and trailer with military precision while the kids count down as if it were Christmas.
The text messages and phone calls from my old pals who have laid dormant for 11 months ramp up as, like all good menfolk, we don’t think about the essentials as we cunningly find a new way to stack the beers in the kist.
The show arrives and our holiday begins. Yes, a fortnight in Tenerife would be cheaper but the ensuing daftness and friendly banter is second to none.
The stories of yesteryear flood among friends as, with every bottle top opening, the new faces are initiated into our world.
The familiar characters sadly don’t always return and a meaningful silence will sporadically happen; a virtual tip of the cap to those lost over the years gone by.
To have no shows in 2020 has proved difficult. I am fortunate to have a young family and a hectic life, but for many the shows are their life.
May they return with all the happiness, competitiveness and camaraderie that only a show can bring in 2021.