The weather forecasters are predicting wall-to-wall sunshine for the 138th Derbyshire County Show and Food Fayre and thousands are expected to turn out for the event.
Dozens of volunteers are already hard at work transforming the 50-acre site at Locko Park, in Spondon, into a showground capable of hosting Derbyshire’s biggest celebration of all things rural.
It’s the second year the show has been staged on the private estate, which dates back to the 11th century, and the event promises to be bigger and better than ever before – with more than 1,000 animals and 500 different breeds from bees, bunnies and bulls.
Before the set up begins, farmers must move cattle and mow the 150 acres of land required for the show and the car parks. Nothing goes to waste; the mown grass is made into sileage which is stored in a clamp and covered to make winter fodder for the cows.
Once the ground is prepared, marquees, animal pens, fencing, pay boxes, temporary toilets and showrings begin to go up with all the military precision of a finely tuned event – but then the show has been running since 1860.
The show’s chairman Edward Hicklin said: “Preparation for this year’s show began just days after last year’s event finished and the committee works all year round to bring it together.
“Most of us have been involved with the show all our lives - I’ve been taking part since I was eight years old - so we are like well-oiled cogs all slotting into place. But it is a huge task for the committee and I can only relax when it’s all over and I know that everyone has enjoyed themselves.
“Of course, the show has grown and evolved over the years and it’s much more a family day out with something for everyone, while it gives us in the industry a great opportunity to talk about how our food ends up on our plate and acts as a shop window for the wonderful produce that is grown locally.”
Food and drink is an important part of the show and this year visitors will be able to try a host of goodies including locally-produced honey, olive oil and pies.
Staff at Bluebells Dairy Farm, in Spondon, have been working around the clock this week to prepare the 800 litres of luxury ice cream they predict they will sell on Sunday.
But visitors will have to wait until the day itself to find out which of their newest flavours will be available to buy on the day – strawberry and prosecco, salted caramel butterscotch, gin and tonic sorbet and the limited-edition Guinness ice cream could all be on the menu.
Rosemary Brown, who owns and runs Bluebells along with her husband Geoff and son Oliver said: “We have been working flat out this week to prepare for the show, particularly since the weather forecast is so good. We haven’t decided which flavours to take this year, but we’ll have six members of staff serving ice cream from two ice cream cabinets, so there’s no danger of running out.
“We really loved being at Locko Park last year, it was an amazing venue and we felt that it put the heart back into the show.”
Nelson’s Gin Distillery, based in Uttoxeter, expects to hand out more than 1,000 samples of its award-winning tipples, including its best-selling Rhubarb and Custard flavour and its brand new Timur Pepper Gin.
Director Greg Kimbur said: “Our newest gin has only been out for a couple of weeks and so we’re expecting there to be a lot of interest. It’s made with Szechuan pepper imported from Nepal and has a very citrussy flavour.
“It’s not hot or pungent like a pepper but has slight grapefruit overtones and creates a tingly feeling in the mouth.
“Although our gins are being stocked in some high profile stores we only attend local shows and we really enjoy the opportunity to get out and meet our customers.”
This year visitors are able to savour the best in traditional British country pursuits and some spectacular showground entertainment. In the main ring there will be equestrian display teams, a sheepdog display, a parade of heavy horses and even an appearance from Rammie.
Elsewhere, there will be livestock displays in the parade ring, show jumping, craft and trade stalls, floral displays and homemade cakes and jams from the Women’s Institute.
Traditional countryside skills will be demonstrated throughout the day and The Derbyshire Beekeepers Association is bringing an observation hive, which gives a cross-sectional view of bees at work.
Although the show is a true celebration of rural life, it is also a celebration of family life – with something for every member of the family. This year, an RAF Spitfire will wow crowds with a flypast mid-afternoon while a giant screen will show the World Cup group match between England and Panama from 1pm.
Of course, one of the show’s annual highlights are performances from J C Ball’s Dancing Diggers, based in Ambergate, who astound audiences with their intricately choreographed routines to music such as Elevation by U2 and I Like the Way You Move by OutKast.
Collectively weighing more than 80 tonnes, the diggers wiggle past each other with split-second precision. The vehicles perform ‘handstands’ in time to the music and create a ‘wedding arch’ for other machines to drive through.
The machines are on building sites all week, so the night before the show staff work hard to make them look presentable for their routine with a deep clean and the buckets are completely resprayed so they look immaculate.
The team consists of six drivers who have been together since 2004 and work hard to get the routine absolutely perfect.
Joint owner and show President Chris Balls said: “People always assume the diggers must be modified to be able to perform with such elegance, but each of the machines taking part in the routine is out on the road during the week.
“We don’t actually have enough space to rehearse, because obviously you need a lot of room to manoeuvre six JCBs. The only way we can practise is to get the drivers to walk through the routine – so they certainly need some imagination.
“The show goes from strength to strength every year and genuinely has something for every member of the family. We’re particularly proud of the way it introduces the countryside to city dwellers and it’s always a thrill to see so many youngsters embracing the event.”
Of course, diggers won’t be the only vehicles at the event. A superb selection of vintage cars, from the majestic Rolls Royce to the humble Austin 7, will be available for both young and old to admire.
And there will be a parade of tractors, lorries, steam engines, machinery and motorcycles from a bygone era, which have been lovingly restored by genuine enthusiasts.
For the traditionalists there will be demonstrations of hedge-laying and drystone walling and farmers from across the county will be on hand to talk about their work.
There is a Kennel Club Dog Show, which will offer the chance to qualify for Crufts, and dog owners are invited to enter a Companion Dog show with 20 novelty categories including Waggiest Tale and Loveable Rogue.
It costs just £1 to enter a dog into the show and judges will be looking for Cutest Puppy, Golden Oldie, Child and Best Friend and Most Handsome Dog.
Edward Hicklin added: “This year families will be able to stand next to a tonne of bull, feed a rabbit and even enter their family dog – we have every animal from guinea pigs to poultry.
“What’s great about the show is that it brings the countryside to life for young children and families and helps them to understand rural life, healthy eating and animal provenance.
“This year visitors can enjoy farming, food, football and a flypast. The big screen means no one has to miss out on the England match and it’s not everyday you get to see an iconic aircraft like a Spitfire.
“Around the UK a lot of country shows have stopped running, which is sad to see, especially since this is one of the ways which unites the city and countryside.”
Here are the key details you need to know about the Derbyshire County Show and Food Fayre:
· Where: Locko Park, Spondon, Derby, DE7 4PQ .
· When: 8am – 5.30pm.
· How can I get there: There are free buses from the city centre bus station, Ilkeston, Long Eaton and Sainsbury’s on Osmaston Park Road. There is ample free car parking for drivers.
· Tickets: Pre-Show Adult Tickets cost £10 for adults, £7 for children and the under-fives are free. A pre-show ticket for senior citizens is £9.
· For more details about tickets please visit www.derbyshirecountyshow.org.uk