It has been over 50 years since the first Agriculture Show was held in the Cayman Islands. Since that time, it has grown to become one of the most attended events on the annual calendar.
The 53rd Ag Show will be held at The Grounds in Lower Valley on the public holiday Wed., 26 Feb., with the gates opening at 7am and closing at 7:30pm. In that 12-hour period, there will be activities, entertainment, demonstrations, competitions and refreshments galore for attendees to sample. This is shaping up to be the biggest Ag Show ever, designed to appeal to all ages.
Many market stalls will be set up on the day, selling everything from fresh produce to craft items. Those unfamiliar with what local artisans have to offer will no doubt be dazzled by the selection available.
From vegetables and fruit to jams and jellies, thatch works and paintings, the Ag Show is a shopper’s dream.
Whether you feel you have a prize pig on your hands; the biggest pumpkin in the patch; or can sink a basketball like the pros, there is a contest with your name on it here.
Judges will cast their beady eyes upon produce, crafts and livestock with the legendary blue ribbons up for grabs. Competition is often fierce, as farmers are serious about their submissions.
There will also be the Agriculture Queen and Princess pageant on the youth stage, along with the first-ever cultural spelling bee. What do we mean by ‘cultural’? Well, all words will be related to Caymanian history and culture. The bee is open to 8-11 year olds and they can register on the day.
Fancy yourself a bit of a hoopster? Teens can sign up for the basketball competition. Kids and adults can also give the dominoes competition a try. It is $10 to enter and there are trophies for first, second and third place.
Districts will have the chance to show off their design skills when they are judged on their booths. Each district is participating and there will also be an entry from Cayman Brac.
Of course, what is the show without food? Jerk chicken aficionados will be competing for top billing, and just as in the past year, there will be the youth cooking competition under the pavillion.
Note: Anyone wishing to submit produce, crafts and livestock for judging must drop them off at The Grounds by midnight on Monday. There will be security in place from early evening.
Dancing, singing and riding are just a few of the types of entertainment scheduled throughout the day. This year, there are two stages: the main stage and the youth stage. On the main stage, expect to see (and hear) the likes of Lammie Seymour, the Clifton Hunter High School Steel Pan Band and the ever-popular Swanky Kitchen Band.
On the youth stage, the likes of Deal Ebanks will be demonstrating his rope-making skills, spinning gigs and blowing a conch shell, along with entertainment for the much younger children (2-11 years old).
Later in the evening, the kids can settle in to watch a film on the big screen, while the parents wait to see if they have won a raffle prize and enjoy the gospel concert on the main stage.
In order to accommodate the younger guests at the Ag Show, their area has been expanded this time around.
There will be more activities designed for children, along with the ever-popular petting zoo, horse rides and bouncy castles.
Horse owners are also welcome to bring their steeds along so they can participate in the pole-bending and barrel-racing events. Entry is free.
The first official Ag Show was held in 1963 on land behind the George Town Library. After a number of years, it moved to Smith Road, then on to the Lions Centre, before finding a permanent home in Lower Valley.
In the early days, it was already generating buzz, bringing in a few thousand people. By the late ‘70s, closer to 10,000 were flooding through the gates over the course of the day.
In 1980, factors such as lack of funds, rain, pests and poor soil threatened to cancel the show, but thanks to some enthusiastic younger members of the steering committee, it went ahead as planned with approximately 5,000 attendees.
Hurricane Gilbert in ’88 really put a spanner in the works, putting the Ag Show to bed for four years, before it returned in ’93 with a strong showing at the Lions Centre. Once The Grounds were ready to welcome the show back, it returned there and hasn’t moved since.
Some of the elements of the show have been retired, such as the parade of yesteryear, but cultural performances such as the quadrille and the maypole dance are still very much alive.
As ever, it also gives an opportunity for local farmers to put on a big display, particularly for those who may not be aware of the size of the farming industry on the island. First-time visitors to the show often express their surprise at the range of produce and crafts for sale, and the hope is that this will encourage them to shop at local markets in the future.
Farmers such as Gary Rankin have noticed an upswing in business after each Ag Show, and young people seem more interested in getting into the farming industry.
In previous years, there has been a shuttle service from the parking lots to The Grounds, but this year the parking is closer to the venue, and therefore the shuttle is unnecessary. Obviously the earlier you get there, the better the spot you’ll get.
Regular tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for ages 2-11 and free for under-2s. Raffle tickets are $25 and include entry to the Ag Show. Tickets are available for purchase from any Ag Show member, or from 9:30am-5pm at A. L. Thompson’s on Monday. Alternatively, they will be available at the gate.