Pat Lunn is hoping, unlike in 2005, no alligators turn up at the Bakewell Show this year.
The horticulture committee chairwoman still vividly remembers the day, eight years ago, when one of the man-eating reptiles appeared in the huge flower marquee.
“It was only an inflatable, fortunately,” she explains. “But it was terrible because it was after we were completely flooded. Someone blew up this alligator and it stayed there for the two days floating in a puddle. Still, we put some straw down and coped. You have to. This is the Bakewell show.”
It is hoped no such rain-based disasters will occur this year.
The huge extravaganza, the biggest and one of the oldest agricultural event of its kind in the north, takes place next week on Wednesday and Thursday. And with 65,000 people expected to descend on the Derbyshire town’s Wye Valley Showground it promises to be – in truth, whatever the weather – a terrific two days.
Horses, cows, dogs, sheep, pigs and at least one woman performing puppet shows using fruit and vegetables will keep the crowds entertained at what will be the 183rd show. There will also be, rather more unusually, a stampede stunt show, mounted games, village theatre, inland beach, parrot roadshow, and vintage farm machinery show to name just a few of the attractions on offer.
“Something for everyone in other words,” says show manager Janet Bailey.
Indeed, sometimes it’s the most unlikely things which go down the best. Just ask Allan King, chairman of the horse show committee. Two years ago he was approached by Co-Operative Funeralcare and asked if he’d consider holding a class displaying horses and hearses.
“Well,” he remembers, “I thought: ‘It’s a bit morbid, I’m not sure people want to be reminded about their mortality while they’re watching equestrian’. But some of the horses are magnificent animals and the hearses can be splendid things so we said: ‘why not?’
“We kept the commentary light-hearted and the audience loved it. You could hear people talking about which hearse they’d like to be pulled along in.”
The horse show has always been one of Bakewell’s biggest draws, though.
In fact it’s so big that this year, for the first time ever, the show will open a day early on Tuesday allowing for an extra 10 horse classes to take place. Visitors will be able to buy reduced-price tickets to go and watch. It means, in total, more than 2,000 horses will parade in some 50 different classes over the three days.
There will be roughly the same number of dogs.
The canines – traditionally the show’s most popular attraction – will compete in 420 classes for 75 breeds. This year organisers have set the dog world agenda by becoming the first show in the country to allow the relatively new breed eurasier dogs to compete.
“We’re always striving to get better,” says Roger Taylor, who has been organising the dog shows for 14 years. “We listen to feedback from exhibitors, take on board comments and queries, and keep an eye on what is going on in the rest of dog-dem just so we can create the best possible experience ever year.”
Like Roger, another veteran of the show is Richard Savoury, the brains and brawn behind the super-popular sheep show for the last 20 years.
“The show is all about putting a smile on people’s faces,” says the showman who comes from New Zealand but lives in north Norfolk. “But we also want to educate too. People see sheep in the countryside all the time but they don’t realise that without them being there, grazing throughout the year, the British countryside would look completely different. It’s nice to entertain people while explaining that.”
Indeed, a sense of fun while learning about agriculture and animals could be a motto for the show itself. Fingers crossed, though, there will be no alligators – inflatable or otherwise – kicking about this year.
The Bakewell Show Special edition of Profile magazine is out now – includes full programme lists as well as exclusive interviews with organisers behind the dog, horse, sheep and horticulture shows.