Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Judging at the the Cappamore Show

old lad in a cap-you're at the show!
Saturday was Cappamore Show day, and although I had the BBQ and Glasshouse launch planned for the afternoon Mike English had phoned me up weeks ago and I foolishly agreed to be a judge. I'm not a professional show judge but I am lucky to work with Dave who is. According to Mike he is an all Ireland Dahlia judge who grows and shows Dahlias at shows all over Ireland and the UK.Last year I had the best time talking to him over a cup of tea afterwards. He is such a mine of information on Dahlias! I love plant nerds!!! This year I had to dash off immediately after I finished in my section. Next year Dave I will pick your brain again I promise!

you couldn't make it up"collection of 6 pansies on a plate"!
The show is seriously well organised despite a very local comfy feel to it. A one way system avoids any traffic chaos, signposting is good at all junctions and roadways, and a network of stewards keeps everything running smoothly on the day. Some bits of the show are quite funny, like the most "glamorous granny competition", "guess the weight of the cow" and the "best grass" category! You'll find Irish dancing, show jumping, a pet dog show, craft and exhibition halls, poultry, machinery, vintage cars, fashion shows, flower arranging,sheaf throwing, carriage driving, bonny baby competition, cookery demonstrations, ...the list goes on! In fact Marie Hayes once told me that if you want to enter something and there isint a category they will create one for you! You see the funniest things too, I once walked down the field early in the morning to find someone shampooing their cow. Cattle feature prominently alongside the horses and are groomed just as well for the competitions. Ginger is the only animal we have but as there is no category for cats, maybe I should ask Marie to create one for him "tubbiest and best gooomed cat". He does all his own grooming and in his current state of extreme laziness would take home the rosette-no question!

Dave judging at the flower section
The job I have is to meet with Dave in the morning at 9 and judge the flower sections with him. This is extremely well organised. We both get two assistants (each!) to guide us through the categories, check the number of entries and hand us anything we would like to look at for closer inspection.This year bottled water and a glass was also strategically placed for us to get a drink if we were thirsty from all the judging! After Dave and I finish the flower judging we split into two directions. I judge the kids entries and the fruit while Dave goes on to judge the veg.If any of you ever enter your flowers or fruit into agricultural shows you will know roughly what's involved but it still amazes me how basic the mistakes some people make, e.g. the wrong type of Dahlia, too many flowers (5 stems if it specifies 3) and the wrong colours (one type if it asks for three colours), all of which instantly disqualify you- so obey the schedule at all costs!

my glamorous assistants!
There are lots of other technicalities too. If it says "one plant only" you get automatically disqualified if you put more in the pot. Dave will actually root around in the soil if he suspects more than one entry! If you are entering roses or other flowers they must be at their best, flowers that are too old (if you can see the centre of the Dahlia or Rose for example) will not make the grade.In the fruit section I always smell the apples, shop bought are usually too perfect looking and have no smell. You won't win a rosette if you bought it in Dunnes!

 I definitely wore the wrong shoes
Some sections were brilliant, the local Cappamore ICA (Irish country women's Association) had their own section for "an arrangement of  flowers in a teacup". There were lots of entries, all really beautiful and some really fab. Other sections like the "sweet peas in a vase" were very poor, very few entries, and a very poor standard of flowers. Strange considering its easy enough to have good sweet peas for a show.I won this section once before my "career" as a judge. Seamus slags me off about it to this day, there were only three entries-I was bound to win something! No danger of inflated egos around here.

Marie, commanding all from the box
I was finished by 11 and just popped in to the "command centre" to see Marie who organises the whole thing and compliment her on her ICA sisterhoods excellent flowers in tea cups. On the drive out I met a steward at the top of the hill who directed me across a field full of horse boxes and ponies to the exit. Right in my path was a big ploughed up patch covered in deep muddy ruts. O no!!
"Whatever you do don't stop"he said "unless you want us to pull you out!"


I geared down and kept going, the car waltzed a bit but I got through. I was so busy concentrating on not getting stuck that I completely missed Tara and Nick who were just about to cross in front of me but stepped out of the way! Sorry! At the bottom of the hill the track was a muddy pair of ruts in the lane way. I kept going and hoped for the best. I never thought I'd say this but God was I glad when the car turned on to a tarmac road. What the hell would it be like later? At least bales of straw were already being "deployed" in the very muddy areas.

Strategy for dealing with mud-bales of straw!
Lots of Agricultural shows have been cancelled this year because their grounds are too wet, that should never happen in Cappamore as they moved a few years ago to a very dry area because of wet summers like this one. If you get a chance be sure to go next year; the website is www.cappamoreshow.ie

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