We often reserve our editorial space to discuss the biggest news of the day. And today – Ash Wednesday – there’s nothing bigger going on in the Cayman Islands than the Agriculture Show.
In fact, many of our readers who are perusing the print edition of this newspaper are doing so right in the middle of the show on the Agricultural Grounds in Lower Valley.
The show, which is officially marking its 50th iteration, might be the largest event held in Cayman on a regular basis, drawing (according to our best available estimates) “thousands” of people to Lower Valley.
Attendance figures are a bit more precise for the agriculture shows in Cayman Brac (to be held March 25) and Little Cayman (April 29) — as “everybody” on the Sister Islands will show up.
And while today is the “50th Annual Agriculture Show” in Grand Cayman, as with many historical events in this country, the specifics can be more complex than may first appear.
Fifty years ago, back in 1967, our predecessor publication the Caymanian Weekly reported on the “5th annual show.” The apparent discrepancy in dates might be explained by years when no agriculture show was held, for example in 2005 while the country was still recovering from Hurricane Ivan’s devastation. Instead, the Ministry and Department of Agriculture sponsored a scaled-down “Agricultural Day,” which proved to be an enjoyable event and a symbolic nod to the country’s efforts to regroup and regrow after the storm.
That being said, Cayman’s general tradition of hosting Agricultural Shows goes back even farther, to more than 100 years ago. The authoritative text on Cayman’s history, “Founded Upon the Seas” by Michael Craton and the New History Committee, mentions that among the myriad accomplishments of Commissioner George Stephenson Shirt Hirst — a man of great energy and controversy, who oversaw Cayman’s government from 1907 until his death in 1912 — was the establishment of a branch of the Jamaican Agricultural Society and the holding of an annual agricultural show in December. During that time, the agriculture show was held at George Town’s first public park, established by Commissioner Hirst and named in honor of Queen Victoria, on Elgin Avenue across from the new Government House that Commissioner Hirst had built in 1907.
(Incidentally, the site of today’s event, the Agricultural Grounds, is a mere stone’s throw away from Hirst Road.)
For decades, the Agriculture Show’s recipe for success has been simple, featuring produce, livestock, crafts, contests, competitions, games, food and music for families to enjoy on a public holiday. The show is a wholesome experience for residents and tourists, where exhibits that honor Cayman’s past traditions, such as thatch-weaving and gourd-growing, exist side-by-side with new ventures, such as hydroponic farming and heirloom tomatoes.
In case you couldn’t guess, we at the Compass are very supportive of this annual event. In addition to the 24-page Agriculture Show special feature we published Tuesday, today’s newspaper is also a “special edition” of sorts – considering that we don’t typically publish on public holidays. (We are using the Ag Show itself as a major “distribution point” for today’s Compass.)
As one of the proud sponsors of the Agriculture Show, we at Pinnacle Media would like to congratulate the show’s host, the Cayman Islands Agriculture Society, and extend our best wishes for another successful event — today and for the next 50 years to come.