War and disease are the only two obstacles that have prevented the Stokesley Agricultural Show from being staged since the event was launched in 1859.
Aside from the years of two World Wars and enforced absence because of foot and mouth disease, it has been a fixture in the town’s calendar.
While the 21st century show is undoubtedly different – being staged on a Saturday rather than the original Thursday is one major development – members of the Stokesley Agricultural Society who launched the original event would doubtless recognise its purpose of promoting the rural economy and bringing local communities together.
The current chairman, Neal Waters, admits some details of modern shows, such as a class for alpacas, would raise a smile of disbelief back in the Victorian era.
But such developments represent the same virtues behind the original idea, to showcase the best the district’s agricultural communities have to offer, while bring modern developments in the industry to a wider audience.
The formula clearly works because the annual one-day show brings in around 20,000 visitors.
All will have their own reasons for visiting, but, according to Mr Waters, the show offers so much that no-one is likely to see everything.
The show features traditional ‘sections’ for a wide range of animals, with one for ‘farm produce’ which regularly attracts more than 100 entrants.
The district’s cooks and craftspeople also have the opportunity to exhibit their produce and the show takes account of emerging trends and interests, with a local food marquee, Scrumptiously Stokesley, and a food theatre where local chefs provide demonstrations.
“It is one day in the year when the rural community has a chance to shop-window all that is good about whatever they are doing, and present it to the public,” said Mr Waters.
The show also allows the agricultural society to help the wider community, with a system of bursaries introduced around 15 years ago to help those studying in rural skills.
The showground is offered at a reasonable rent to allow other organisations to stage events when it is not needed for the annual show and donations from funds raised through visitors’ car parking at the show are made to non-profit making organisations in the area.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the show’s social function has also become more prominent, aided by its bar and food hall as venues for visitors to relax.
“People catch up with their friends,” said Mr Waters. “Following the pandemic, we have found the social side of the show now is an extremely important aspect of the day.”
A funfair is held in town in the week leading up to show day, with both events taking place on the Saturday as a climax to the week.
That helps to draw in visitors from urban communities, who are likely to learn a little more about how their rural neighbours contribute to the food chain which helps to support them.