We got the annual schedule for the Ellesmere A&P Show the other day. For those of you not familiar with the term, A&P means Agricultural and Pastoral–Farm Shows they’re called in the US.
I grew up enjoying the local Farm Shows, entering bad art projects into the competition, and admiring the rows of cattle on display. As an adult, I was lucky enough to live for several years mere blocks from the Minnesota State Fair–the Farm Show to end all Farm Shows. I even entered a quilt there–won second prize in a category in which I was the only entrant. A feat worthy of mention in the News from Lake Wobegon, if you ask me.
Farm Shows/A&P Shows are a defining cultural experience, but the truth is, you don’t even need to go to the show to have a cultural experience. Reading the show schedule is almost as good.
For example, in the little old Ellesmere show, there are 95 different sheep classes in which one could enter one’s woolly livestock. That doesn’t include the children’s pet classes or the wool classes. And then, of course, there are the shearing and sheep dog competitions. Sheep farming may be on the decline in New Zealand, but it’s still king in Ellesmere.
Dairy has boomed in recent years, and there are quite a large number of dairy classes in which aspiring farmers can enter their bovines. The lucky winners of many of the dairy classes will receive semen as their prize. Doesn’t that just make you want to enter?
Semen certainly beats the poor dairy goat farmers, who pay $5 to enter a goat, and can only hope for, at best, $5 for first prize.
If you’ve got a dairy animal, it might just win Best Udder (Judged both full and empty–I expect no saggy udders need apply). Now there’s something to aspire to.
One of my favourites is the calf fancy dress class. Nothing like a bunch of calves in tutus and tuxes to make you smile.
And I noticed a new category I never knew existed–Donkey Challenge, judged on ‘willingness, style and accuracy over four challenges’. Now, that’s a competition I may have to make sure I see this year.
But of course, like any rural event, the real excitement is simply the hustle and bustle on the day. The hot chips and mini-donuts, the carnival rides, running into neighbours and people you haven’t seen for months, and celebrating the importance of agriculture in our lives and culture.