Country Fairs

“Never act with children or animals.” Those were the wise words of W C Fields, sentiments with which I am sure most politicians would concur, especially now that images so easily go viral on the internet. In this sense attending Penistone Show can be fraught with danger. Like the time a few years ago when I was talking to a gentleman with a polecat on a lead. Telling me it was friendly he suggested I might like to stroke it but the sight of its razor-sharp teeth gave me pause, a caution confirmed when it tried to sink those teeth into my boot! I doubt there is a photograph of that encounter as nothing has so far appeared on Facebook or Instagram.

Agricultural shows and country fairs are an important part of life in this country and have been for many years. The first record of a show was in Salford as long ago as 1768. Now there are some 162 shows of varying sizes and styles every summer the length and breadth of the UK. Most shows are for a single day although some, like the well-known Great Yorkshire Show take place over a three day period.

The first Penistone Show was in 1853, just a few years after the opening of the railway line in 1845 but is appears to have enjoyed several different locations within the town in the intervening years. In fact many shows seem to have started or expanded once the rail network made movement of people quick and easy. Town and city dwellers could enjoy a day in the countryside and return to their homes within the same day, no longer was the only means of transport a rickety horse-drawn carriage bumping along unmade roads.

Most shows have something for everyone. Show-jumping; cattle, sheep, pig and goat displays, sometimes a dog show where your own pooch can try and win a prize. They are also used by charities and local voluntary groups as a means of publicising their good works and seeking further support. Photography exhibitions, craft sales, the inevitable bouncy castle, Punch & Judy show, a beer tent or three and often vintage vehicles on display. After casually asking how a steam-propelled traction engine worked I realised that I should only ask such questions if I really needed to know the answer!

This year Penistone Show will take place on Saturday 8th September and I would encourage everyone to attend especially those who have never done so before. Just beware of encounters with animals, especially polecats!

First published by the Barnsley Chronicle - Penistone Living - June 2018