Farming Tradition at English County Fair

Article and photos by Benjamin Long

As Orson Kibby clambered up onto the tractor’s driving seat, his eyes widened at the steering wheel and buttons that greeted him. The 3-year-old’s hands nervously reached for the lever that controlled the digger, as a nearby instructor explained everything to him. In a flash, the digger quickly jerked to life as the cockpit spun around, much to the amusement of Orson’s mother and the surrounding crowd. The tractor simulator proved to be one of the hits at the 2015 Lincolnshire Show this summer in the East of England.

Main Ring
Crowds gather in sweltering heat at the Main Showground for the 2015 Lincolnshire Show.

County shows are commonplace in England, and the Lincolnshire Show is the second largest in the country, a marquee event. With prize sheep and vintage tractors on display, military air shows and equestrian showjumping, the show always attracts substantial crowds.

This year, over two scorching summer days in late June, more than 60,000 fairgoers, most of them day-trippers, visited the 200-acre showground. “We had to cut down barley on one of our fields to make way for more car parking spaces,” said the show’s chief executive, Jane Southall.

In contrast to the monthly farmers markets in the county’s largest town, Boston, which many shop owners feel cut into their business, the annual show enjoys wide support, as a magnet for tourists and a showcase of Lincolnshire pride.

One highlight of the annual show is always the horses, cows, docile pigs and surprisingly aggressive sheep brought in by proud farmers. Their sounds – and smells – draw a stream of visitors.

One sheep that stood out is the celebrated Lincolnshire Longwool, specific to the county and the largest sheep in England, known for its long luscious locks and imposing size.

Farmers bring their Lincolnshire Longwool sheep, the largest sheep in England, for the fair.

Throughout the day, the animals are judged, with all the farmers craving that Best in Show rosette.

On the other side of the showground are food stalls serving up local produce. The area brimmed with people carrying hog roast rolls and ice creams (though not at the same time). The Kid’s Zone buzzed with children driving the tractor simulators, dancing to local music and running through obstacle courses.

The centerpiece of the Showground was the Main Ring, hosting, in turn, stunt driving, emergency services demonstrations and air displays.

For those not interested in loud showpieces, vintage vehicles could be found in a far corner of the Showground. Classic motorbikes and fully-functioning steam engines acted as a reminder of a time that is doing its utmost to preserve for future generations.

The Lincolnshire Agricultural Society, founded in 1969, owns the grounds and uses them in support of its mission, which includes “the furtherance, welfare and progress of the agricultural industry and all professions, trades and crafts connected therewith.”

“We continually try to impress on youngsters the importance of farming and agriculture for the industry’s future,” said Chambers.

So, when Orson Kibby turned to his mother and exclaimed, “Mummy, I want to be a farmer and drive tractors!” it seemed as though the Lincolnshire Show had accomplished just that.