What’s on at the Devon County Show this May
- Credit: Archant
It’s Devon County Show month and there’s some new faces and some familiar ones at the centre of the event this year
The Devon County Show represents the very fabric of rural life in our county and attracts 90,000 visitors every May. This year, the event is under the leadership of a new show manager, Sam Mackenzie-Green.
Devon Life went to meet her to find out what makes her tick, and how the 2019 show - which this year takes place on 16, 17 and 18 May - is shaping up.
Lives in Dorset, with husband Henry, two children, George and Tommy, a black Labrador Nelson and a horse, Shortie (bless her, says Sam, she's a pony really, but we never tell her as she likes to think she can keep up with the thoroughbreds).
Has worked in the show industry for 19 years, starting off at the Dorset County Show and then moving over to the Yeovil Show to recreate an event that had been dormant for 50 years.
Keen horsewoman and countryside lover - Sam studied equine and business management at university and one of her aims on day one day is to compete on her own horse at one of her own shows!
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What do you think of the show so far?
Having visited the Show every year for the last ten years I have always adored that fantastic feel it has. There is a real relaxed air of excitement whether it's around the livestock judging rings or in the incredible Food and Drink Pavilion you get the sense that people are just loving the occasion.
I have been working with the team since August and in this time I have met many of the brilliant stewards who organise the different sections of the Show. Listening to their passion and dedication to the event has been inspiring, they all they love their own part of the Show and want to make it the very best in every way.
The eight-strong team in the Show office have been incredibly supportive in bringing me up to speed with the highly complex machinations of such a huge and complex show.
Having a team of such dedicated doers has meant that I can focus on the bigger picture rather than getting distracted with the day to day of putting on a show.
The team are amazing - there's so much talent in evidence. I've invested in quite a bit of training for them to grow and develop their confidence and skill sets.
There is no one better placed to act as a brand ambassador for the Devon County Show than the organising team, and I want them all to sing it, loud and with confidence from the rooftops.
Likes and dislikes
- Mess - I need to be surrounded by order - both at home and at work.
- Magnolia coloured paint. One's surroundings should inspire you, so I've just had my office painted in a Zen shade of grey, which is a triumph.
- Fresh flowers in the office - it's a small price to pay for a daily spectacle of colour and a profusion of scent.
- When the first marquee starts going up on the showground - that's the moment it feels like it's really happening.
- Battenburg cake - or anything that contains marzipan, basically.
- The Times Cryptic Crossword - it's what I do to unwind and if I get stuck I consult my Dad.
- Going the extra country mile - it's what I do best!
What do you think the formula is for a successful county show?
It's got to be a mix of things that has a draw for the whole family. We need to get the next generation engaged and hooked so we can secure the future of this very British tradition.
We've put in a number of features designed to appeal to the younger generation - a zone where they can handle the animals and learn about the provenance of everything they use in daily life in a hands-on way.
Social media is an inescapable facet of modern life and represents a big opportunity for the show in terms of spreading the message. After all, who doesn't want to post a selfie with an alpaca or a goat on their Instagram feed?
Food glorious food. Our nation loves to eat like never before and the rising number of diet requirements and food intolerances can't be ignored. That's why this year we are opening up our food section to include a Food Walk which will offer vegetarian, vegan, dairy free and gluten free options for visitors.
What are the challenges of putting on a show like Devon County Show?
The Great British Weather - not just us but every show has to plan for this. A large amount of the showground is under cover of a marquee so generally, rain never needs to stop play.
Many of the cattle competing in our livestock competitions are fresh out of the barns. And this can make them frisky. As a safeguard, we have highly experienced stewards, specifically trained to deal with excitable livestock, on hand at all times.
What's new at the 2019 Devon County Show?
My predecessor, Ollie Allen, is a tough act to follow. She's built this show up into the jewel in Devon's crown and I'm keen, in year one, not to reinvent the wheel.
However, we are delighted to welcome a number of new elements to the show for 2019 - the highlights of which include:
- The Devon Cattle Breeders' Society national show which returns to its native county for 2019. We're expecting up to 100 Devon Reds on site competing in the show, along with a new young stars competition dedicated to young handlers.
- More craft producers from right across the country offering more choice for visitors.
- A new open section in the horticulture section which will operate under the Devon County Show, rather than RHS rules, meaning smaller producers can get on board.
- A new premier open dog show with 355 classes split into seven groups and welcoming several new breeds - Large Munsterlanders, Hungarian Pulis, Bavarian Mountainhounds and Estrela Mountain Dogs. Each group winner will qualify for Crufts.
- With our new President, Sir Harry Studholme, also the Chair of the Forestry Commission, it's no surprise that we plan to make much of the Forestry Commission's centenary year at Devon County Show. Watch this space for further details.
To find out more about Devon County Show and how to book, visit devoncountyshow.co.uk