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The Stewards gather the judging boxes together for day one of the Suffolk Show 2011.; Mike Harris speeds off with the boxes.
Suffolk Show’s bowler-hatted stewards won’t get to greet the event’s 80,000 to 90,000 visitors this year. So what will they miss most – and what will they be doing instead?
At 5am on Suffolk Show days, Mike Harris, senior steward for the light horses section, would probably be out patrolling Trinity Park’s immaculate showground near Ipswich.
This year, he’ll probably lie in until 6.30am before exercising his horses with wife, Claire, who’s also a light horse steward.
On what would have been the eve of the show on Tuesday, May 26, he’s arranged a Zoom meet-up with his stewarding team. Normally, they’d be enjoying a formal pre-show dinner, but this year they’ll be toasting themselves via the internet for winning the Best Agricultural Show 2019 at the Showing Council Awards earlier this year.
“I’m asking them to wear the hat they’d have worn at the show – that’s a posh hat for the ladies and a bowler hat for the gents. It will be great to at least see them all and look forward to seeing them next year, in person,” he says.
Most of the stewards involved in the show say it’s the camaraderie, team spirit and the buzz of the show they’ll miss the most – as well as the spectacle.
Nick Watts, senior rings steward, will be busy on the farm this year, but, like Mike, will miss his show friends.
He’ll also miss everything from the “hilarious” pig racing in the countryside ring to the quietly serious sheep judging in the presidents ring, the drama and tension of the show jumping final jump-off, and the “generally chaotic” show finale that is the inter-hunt relay in the grand ring.
Meanwhile, on what have been this year’s show days, honorary medical officer Dr Richard West will be at the sharp end of the health crisis, as he starts to plan how to deal with the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic.
The show’s senior vet Jake Waddilove will be carrying on with his day job too – helping to maintain animal food production.
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Also returning to his day job will be Duncan Haydon, senior catering and hospitality steward, who says he’ll miss “not wearing my bowler hat when making sense of any situation” – and a well-earned drink with friends at the end of an eventful day.
His deputy, Bella Jolly, will spend the days with her children, but will miss their delighted faces watching the grand parade. Senior sponsors steward Fenella Blyth will also be looking for ways to entertain her children without the show.
Senior cattle steward James Strachan will be taking care of the family farm’s numerous diversifications including its Birds and Bees campsite at Rendham, which he is hoping to open on July 9.
Senior heavy horses steward Mark Donsworth will be working at his Framlingham-based retail business, as will media and PR steward Eric Morton, who will spend the two days at Morvend, his vending machine farm diversification.
Showground maintenance steward John Taylor says he’s likely to be otherwise occupies over the two days watering show director Bruce Kerr’s potatoes, which are growing on his farm – as well as spending some quality time with his family.
Senior health and safety steward Nick Brown reckons he will probably be sitting in his office, wishing he was at the show, while showground maintenance steward Andrew Fairs will be busy working at his specialist seeds farm business, Fairking, Like showjumping senior steward Simon Stearn and senior sheep steward Tim Pratt, they will miss their show friends.
Commentary team member Oliver Holloway will revert to his day job too at Framlingham estate agents Clarke & Simpson, missing out on his 20th year as a steward. The coronavirus crisis has put into perspective the things we miss and enjoy, he says.
“For me, the Suffolk Show is certainly one of things,” he says.
“I will of course, miss the livestock, the incredible number of trade-stands, the fantastic displays, the general razzmatazz, but most of all, I will miss the great number of friends and clients that I would ordinarily see and spend time with and the great sense of comradeship that the show would ordinarily generate.”
Senior traffic steward Tom Barker will be downsizing to pedal tractors this year, marshalling children Isabella, four, and Henry, two, in the garden, while senior Farm Discovery Zone steward James Blyth hopes to be playing golf. Up near Halesworth, senior tradestands steward Sam Fairs says he’ll be praying for rain for his crops over the next week.
But Farming Live senior steward Brian Barker may have trouble breaking with his 15-year routine. “I will be getting up at the crack of dawn, get my best suit on, walk down stairs, get in my truck, get out my truck, by then a full fry up will be waiting for me (magically), leave my bowler hat on the breakfast table, head off to my first job of the day doing my daily checks to make sure all is set, realise my bowler hat is still on the breakfast table, so go back and retrieve that, meet a friend on the road so stop to chat, then check my watch, realise I’m meant to be somewhere else so head off and forget bowler hat again, come back for a buffet lunch, do my rounds, rescue a lost general public member from an area they shouldn’t be, mid-afternoon complain how hot it is in a three piece suit, walk into the workshop and kick a tractor tyre while holding a glass of cheap fizz, meet wife for some shopping (online), complain she has spent too much and that my feet hurt and so crack into the gin and tonics! Wake up on sofa and repeat for Thursday!”
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