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Fruit and Vegetable Show
Traditional village show in Oxford, UK

How to Organise a Village Show

Every since I’ve been gardening there has been an annual event which I’ve taken part in and that’s the village show. When I lived in South Wales, our gardening society held two shows a year, one in the Spring and another in late Summer, usually early September.

The Village Show is an opportunity for local gardeners to display the best from their gardens or their skills in handicrafts.

Over the past two decades the number of village shows has been decreasing, not from lack of interest but mainly due to the ageing committees which run them. It doesn’t take much to stage a village show but it can be time consuming and planning is the key to success. Here I’ve outlined a few key points to organising your own local show.

You can’t do it all yourself so find some likeminded individuals and form yourself into a committee. You will need a Chairperson, Secretary/Show Manager, Treasurer and 7 committee members.

Firstly, decided when you are going to hold your show. Usually they are held in September and around Easter. If this is your first year I would suggest starting with a summer show. There is more produce around to display than in the spring.

Once you’ve decided the date of your show, find a venue. A traditional village hall or local room in a pub will do for the first few years until you see how successful it is. Village halls usually come with extra rooms which can be used as a refreshment area. No village show would be complete without the added delight of having a cup of tea and slice of cake while chewing over the problems of the previous gardening year.

TIP: If possible, start planning your show a year in advance. This will give gardeners time to plan what items to grow especially for exhibiting.

The hall is booked but what are people going to display? You need to organise a Show Schedule, this will be given out to anyone who wishes to take part in the show. Don’t be too ambition for the first show. Each society has different show schedules but all work along the same principles, a section for vegetables, fruit, flowers and handicrafts such as cakes and jams.

Summer Show Schedule: Vegetable classes

Summer Show Schedule: Vegetable classes

SECTION 1 Vegetable classes

1. Potatoes, 5 white.
2. Potatoes, 5 coloured.
3. Potatoes, 5 salad.
4. Runner beans, 9 pods.
5. Longest runner bean.
6. French beans, 9 pods.
7. Butternut squash, 1 to be shown.
8. Heaviest tomato.
9. Tomatoes, 6 grown in the open, stalks on.
10. Tomatoes,6 grown under glass, stalks on.
11. Tomatoes, one truss of cherry sized fruits.
12. Carrots, 3 roots, long or intermediate.
13. Carrots, 3 roots, horn or stumped.
14. Longest Carrot.
15. Beetroots, 3 roots, round.
16. Cucumbers, ridged, brace.
17. Cucumbers, under glass, brace.
18. Cabbage, 2 heads, conical or round.
19. Cauliflower, 1 head.
20. Celery, 2 sticks.
21. Shallots for storing, 10 bulbs.
22. Shallots for pickling, 10 bulbs not more than 1” in diameter.
23. Onions from sets,6 bulbs flat.
24. Onions from sets, 6 bulbs globe.
25. Onions from seed, 6 bulbs trimmed not skinned, globe.
26. Onions from seed, 6 bulbs, not larger than 3” diameter.
27. Heaviest Onion, trimmed not skinned.
28. Lettuce, 2 heads, cabbage or cos.
29. Marrows, brace for the table, no larger than 15 inches (38cm) long.
30. Any other kind of vegetable.
31. Courgettes, 3.
32. Capsicums, 2.
33. Heaviest Marrow, 1.
34. Collection of vegetables, 5 different vegetables from classes 1 to 25. Quantities as in class categories above. 3 Leeks and 3 parsnips may be included.
35. Funniest Vegetable.

Summer Show Schedule: Fruit classes

Summer Show Schedule: Fruit classes

SECTION 2 Fruit classes

36. Apples, 6, cooking.
37. Apples, 6, dessert.
38. Pears 6, dessert or culinary.
39. Dish of fruit, of any other one kind.

Summer Show Schedule: Flower classes

Summer Show Schedule: Flower classes

SECTION 3 Flower classes

40. Rose, single specimen.
41. Roses, 4 blooms in a vase.
42. Asters, 6 blooms, single.
43. Asters, 6 blooms,double.
44. African marigolds, 4 blooms.
45. Zinnias, 4 blooms.
46. Gladioli, 3 spikes.
47. Gladiolus, 1 spike.
48. Dahlias, 3 blooms, decorative.
49. Dahlias, 3 blooms, cactus.
50. Dahlias, 3 blooms, pom pom, not more than 2” (50mm) diameter.
51. Dahlias, 3 blooms, ball, over 2” (50mm) diameter.
52. Chrysanthemums, 3 blooms reflex, disbudded.
53. Chrysanthemums, 3 blooms, incurved or intermediate.
54. Chrysanthemums spray, 1, not disbudded.
55. Carnation, single specimen.
56. Sweet Peas,6 stems.
57. Pansy, 6 heads displayed on black card.
58. Penstemon, 1 stem.
59. Vase of mixed flowers grown by exhibitor.
60. Vase of 5 different flower stems grown by exhibitor.
61. Begonia in pot not exceeding 7” diameter.
62. Fuchsia in pot not exceeding 7”diameter.
63. Cactus or succulent in pot.
64. African violet in pot.
65. Flower or plant other than a begonia or fuchsia, in a pot exceeding 7” diameter.
66. Foliage house plant in a pot not exceeding 7” diameter.

Summer Show Schedule: Flowering Arranging & Handicrafts

Summer Show Schedule: Flowering Arranging & Handicrafts

SECTION 4 Flower arranging and Handicraft
Note: Flowers/foliage used may be purchased or home grown.

67. Arrangement of flowers/foliage displayed for artistic effect.
68. Vase or bowl of flowers grown by the exhibitor for a table centre.
69. 1 lapel spray.
70. Item of needlework or embroidery.
71. A soft toy.
72. A crocheted article or garment
73. A handknitted article or garment.
74. Picture in any medium, any subject. Size to be no larger than A3 (279mm X 420mm). Can be framed or unframed.
75. Handmade birthday card. No larger than A5.

Classes 70 to 73 must have been made entirely by the exhibitor within the last 12 months and must be in a new unwashed, unmounted and unframed condition.

Summer Show Schedule: Cookery classes

Summer Show Schedule: Cookery classes

SECTION 5 Cookery

76. Jar of fruit jelly, any kind, 2016 season.
77. Jar of jam, soft fruit, 2016 season.
78. Jar of jam, stoned fruit, 2016 season.
79. Jar of marmalade, any citrus fruit or fruits.
80. Jar of lemon curd.
81. Chutney or pickles, 1 jar.
82. Dish of salad for one person.
83. Fresh fruit apple pie, 7” outside diameter, homemade short crust pastry on top & bottom or top only.
84. Sausage rolls, 6, homemade short crust pastry.
85. 6 fancy cakes or 6 pastries. (Cake mixes are not to be used).
86. Shortbread, own recipe.
87. Savoury quiche, use 7” tin.
88. Cheese scones, 6. (Scone mixes are not to be used).
89. Homemade sweets or fudge. 6 to be shown.
90. Lemon, Lime & Poppy Seed Cake. Supplied recipe must be adhered to.
91. Milk chocolate Cake. Supplied recipe must be adhered to.
92. Economical Fruitcake. Supplied recipe must be adhered to.
93. Bread, a one pound white loaf, own recipe. Hand or machine made.
94. Bread, a one pound brown/wholemeal loaf, own recipe. Hand or machine made.
95. Chocolate Brownies. Supplied recipe must be adhered to.
96. All-in-one Victoria Sandwich. Supplied recipe must be adhered to.

• Oven settings are approximate as different makes of cookers and individual cookers vary, especially with fan ovens. It is important to refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations concerning temperatures, oven position and timings.

175gms or 6oz light unsalted butter at room temperature.
175gms or 6oz caster sugar.
3 large eggs lightly beaten.
Zest of 1 lemon.
Zest of 1 lime.
1 tablespoon lemon juice.
175gms or 6oz self raising flour.
2 tablespoons poppy seeds.
1 tablespoon lemon juice.
1 tablespoon lime juice.
100gms or 31⁄2oz icing sugar.

Oven 180°C – 350°F – Gas 4. Loaf tin.
Line the sides & base of a Loaf tin with greased paper. Beat the butter & caster sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat the eggs a little at a time into mixture. Then fold in the lemon & lime zest together with the lemon juice. Sift the flour then fold in with the poppy seeds. Transfer to the tin and smooth the top. Bake for 1 hour or until risen, golden and firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin for 5mins then remove and leave to cool completely.

Mix the lemon & lime juice in a bowl. Sift in the sieved icing sugar and combine to make a runny glacé icing. Then spoon the icing over the cake, letting it drizzle down the sides. Leave to set.

225gms or 8oz caster sugar.
200gms or 7oz self raising flour.
115gms or 4oz margarine.
2 eggs beaten with 5 tablespoons of evaporated milk.
1 teaspoon vanilla essence.
3⁄4 teaspoon salt.
2 tablespoons cocoa.
5 tablespoons water.

Buttercream Filling
85gms or 3oz softened unsalted butter.
175gms or 6oz icing sugar

Oven 170 to 180°C – fan oven 140 to 150°C – 325 to 350°F – Gas 3 to 4.
Sift together flour sugar salt and cocoa. Rub in margarine. Stir in eggs, evaporated milk mixture, vanilla essence and liquids. Beat well. Grease and flour two 8” round cake tins and divide mixture between them. (Note. Do not use loose bottom tins, as the mixture will run out). Bake in oven for approx. 35mins. Test as a sponge cake. Leave to cool. Make the butter icing filling by creaming together butter and icing sugar until well mixed and smooth. When cold, sandwich the cakes together with the butter cream filling.

225g or 8oz self raising flour.
1 rounded teaspoon mixed spice.
115gms or 4oz margarine.
115gms or 4oz caster sugar.
2 eggs beaten.
225g or 8oz dried fruit.
3 – 4 tablespoons milk.
2 level teaspoons caster sugar for top of cake.

180°C – fan oven 160°C – 350°F – Gas 4
Loaf tin or round cake tin 6”
Sift flour with spice. Beat fat and sugar until soft and fluffy. Add eggs a little at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in dried fruit. Fold in 1⁄2 flour with a table spoon, then fold in remaining flour, adding sufficient milk to make a soft dropping consistency. Put into tin, levelling the top. Sprinkle the top with remaining caster sugar. Bake for 11⁄2 hours or until cake is well risen, golden and firm to the touch.
Class 95 – Chocolate Brownies (six)
115gms or 4oz self raising flour
60gms or 2oz unsweetened chocolate (70% cocoa) 85gms or 3oz margarine
140gms or 5oz sugar
2 eggs
1⁄2 cup broken nuts
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
Page 15
Oven 180°C – 350°F – Gas 4
Square tin 8”
Melt together over hot water the chocolate & margarine. Beat in the sugar & eggs. Add the sieved flour & salt. Stir in the nuts. Spread into a well greased 8” square tin. Bake in a moderate oven for 30 – 35mins, or until the top has a dull crust. A slight imprint will be left if touched lightly with finger. Cool slightly then cut into squares.

175gms or 6oz self raising flour.
175gms or 6oz caster sugar.
175gms or 6oz soft margarine.
3 medium eggs.
11⁄2 teaspoons baking powder.
4 tablespoons raspberry jam.
A little caster sugar for decoration.

Oven 180°C – fan oven 160°C – 350°F – Gas 4
Measure all the ingredients into a large bowl and beat very well. Grease and base line two 7” sandwich tins with greased greaseproof paper. Divide mixture evenly between tins and level out. Cook for about 25mins or until well risen and the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly pressed with a finger. Leave in tin for 5mins then cool on a wire rack. When cold, sandwich the cakes together with jam. Sprinkle top with caster sugar.

Summer Show Schedule: Photography

Summer Show Schedule: Photography

SECTION 7 Photography classes

97. Animals
98. Trees
99. Village life
100. Single flower (close up)
101. Architecture

– The name of the location where the photograph was taken must be written on the exhibitor’s card.
– Photographs to be either colour or black & white max size 7”x5” or 10”x4” panoramic.
– No digital editing of photographs is allowed.
– Each photograph to be mounted on plain white card size A5 or 11” x 5” if panoramic photographs are entered. – All entrants must write their name, address, and class on the back of the entry card.
– Photographs to have no written description visible to judge.
– Only ONE photograph can be entered in each category.
– Each photograph must have been taken by the exhibitor and not previously displayed at a previous show.
– In the Single flower close up category, only one flower must be in focus.

Summer Show Schedule: Junior

Summer Show Schedule: Junior

SECTION 8 Junior classes

The following classes are open to exhibitors aged up to 16 years on the day of the show. All entries in the Junior Classes must be the unaided work of the exhibitor and must be accompanies by a card stating the exhibitors age.

c1. Animal(s)
c2. Tree(s)
c3. Village life
c4. Single flower close up
c5. Architecture

– The name of the location where the photograph was taken must be written on the exhibitor’s card.
– Photographs to be either colour or black & white max size 7”x5” or 10”x4” panoramic.
– No digital editing of photographs is allowed.
– Each photograph to be mounted on plain white card size A5 or 11” x 5” if panoramic photographs are entered. – All entrants must write their name, address, and class on the back of the entry card.
– Photographs to have no written description visible to judge.
– Only ONE photograph can be entered in each category.
– Each photograph must have been taken by the exhibitor and not previously displayed at a previous show.
– In the Single flower close up category, only one flower must be in focus.

c6. Miniature garden in a saucer or tin or box not larger than 16”x10”. No artificial flowers or foliage may be used.
c7. Model made from fruit, vegetables, and/or flowers. No larger than 18”. Wire, sticks, pins or nails may be used.
c8. Largest sunflower head.
c9. Decorated round rich tea biscuits (3).
c10. 5 gingerbread men.
c11. Mask made from a paper plate.
c12. Design the cover for next years Junior Show Schedule. Use A4 size white paper. The design can be in colour or black and white.
c13. Build a Dalek from recycled materials. No larger than 60cm high
c14. Necklace made from sweets.
c15. Decorated hard-boiled egg or china egg. It does not matter if the egg cracks.
c16. The Junior’s Garden, consisting of 3 radish, 3 pods of beans/peas, 3 carrots, 2 onions.

Once the hall is booked you need to arrange judges. Do this as far in advance as possible, you don’t want to be worrying about finding a judge a few weeks before the show. For the cake and handicraft sections the local Women’s Institute is a good place to ask. For vegetables and flowers, enquire at your local horticultural college. A good society will arrange to feed judges, especially those who have to travel to the show.

TIP: My experience of shows started in South Wales. Once the judges arrive they are taken into the refreshment area where a cup of tea is served. After judging is completed, they are given more tea and something to eat. If possible try for a hot meal. If the judges are not local they may have travelled a long way and a meal will make them want to return. Boiled potatoes, fresh veg, salad and maybe a few slices of ham is what we gave our judges. The food is usually served after they have completed their judging, this stops them taking hours to complete their judging. Most judges with waver their fee, usually £75, if food and drink is served.

When you are planning the show schedule, include a page for the Entry Form. A simply form which asks for the exhibitors name, address, telephone number along with a list of which categories they plan to exhibit in. This will help the committee in advance work out how much space each category needs on the show bench.

You aren’t going to make thousands of pounds, all you need is to cover the cost of staging the event. Exhibitors are usually charged 50p per entry for entering their exhibits. On the day you can also have a raffle, ask local shopkeepers for prize donations. There will also be income from the refreshment stall by selling tea and coffee. Put a call out to committee members and local people to donate a cake. Again, aim to just cover your costs, anything over and above this is a bonus and can be put forward to the next show.

You’ve gone to all this hard work so don’t let it fail at the last minute. Tell as many people as possible about your show. Make posters and put them in as many shop windows as possible, not only in your area but in the wider community. Create a Facebook events page and ask the committee to add their friends. Tell the local newspaper, village newsletter and radio station.

TIP: When I was publicity officer for a society in Wales, I used to create two poster designs and print them on several different coloured paper. I would ask every shop in the area to display a poster, mixing up the designs and colours in each street. When the public kept seeing different coloured and designed posters they thought it was for a different event – but the information goes deeper into their mind so they don’t easily forget about it.

If possible, get into the hall the evening before to set up the exhibiting tables and refreshments. In South Wales we could only afford to hire the hall for one day so had to set everything up on the morning of the show, starting at 7am.

a traditional village gardening show in Oxford

Each category will need a Show Steward.

Exhibitors entry card
Exhibitors entry card
These are volunteers to accompany the category Judge. Ideally the steward should not be exhibiting in that category, but if they are, they need to declare a vested interest to the judge before starting – NEVER highlighting their entries to the Judge; if they do the Judge can dismiss them from their position are disqualify the steward entries.

The steward directs the Judge to the section which needs judging. Once the Judge has decided which entries are 1st, 2nd, 3rd, they will point and declare which position is being awarded. The steward is then responsible for posting the appropriate stickers on the exhibits card and makes a note on their score sheet. At the end of judging the steward delivered the score sheet to the Show Manager.

Awards at a flower and vegetable show
A typical display of awards and trophies.

The amount awarded is up to your society. Typically it’s £4 for each 1st Prize; £2 for each 2nd Prize and 50p for each 3rd Prize.

Certain sections can come with additional cash prizes or trophies. Local celebrities and businesses may sponsor a class/trophy such as ‘Most Points in Vegetable Section’ or ‘Best Class in Flowers’. The ultimate prize/trophy will be ‘Most Points in Show’.

The cost of the trophies can be expensive so try and encourage people/local businesses to donate a cup, shield or trophy. Many decades ago the names of winners along with the year would be engraved on the prize, but due to the cost most societies are now opting not to include this option on prizes.

Working on the assumption you can set the tables up the evening before, this is a typical running order of the day:

9am Doors open to exhibitors. They arrive and collect their exhibit cards (see picture above) from the Show Manager. The display their exhibit in the appropriate category, clearly displaying their exhibit card alongside the exhibit. VIDEO: Watch how a show bench looks.

10:45am Judges arrive and taken into the refreshment area; they are not allowed to go into the main exhibiting hall

11am All exhibitors are asked to leave and won’t be allowed back in until the show officially opens later

11am Judges, along with their designated steward, are allowed into the main hall to judge their classes

12pm Judging end and they return to the refreshment room for a hot meal and tea

12pm Show stewards return to the Show Manager and submit their results sheets

12:30pm The Show Manager issues ‘First’ and ‘Second’ prize cards. The category stewards display them alongside the winning entries

1pm Judges leave the venue

2pm Show Officially opens to the public

4pm Prizes are announced and winners receive their prize (usually £2 for 1st prize) and any trophies you may have
Raffle winners are announced and afterwards, exhibitors are allowed to remove their exhibits

4:30pm Any exhibits left on the show bench are now auctioned off to the public and any monies raised are donated to the society funds. The auction should be viewed as a bit of fun so start the bidding off at 50p. Another idea is to donate any food exhibit to a local church, hospital or food bank.

5pm Return the hall to its original state and clean-up the venue.

Don’t forget to thank everyone who helped the show. A note on a card will go along way when asking for help to organise the next show. Put a list of the winners, along with some photographs of the winners with their awards, in the local newsletter, newspaper and on social media.

Above all, take time on the day of the show to enjoy the experience.

Many thanks to Aaron Savage and Lisa Berry for the additional information provided.

About Sean James Cameron

Based in London, Sean has been gardening since being a teenager. Although vegetables and fruit is the main passion, there is also room for flowers.

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