Heckington Show – 150 years in the making!

An interesting child and pony fancy dress parade at the 1965 show. EMN-170307-193248001
An interesting child and pony fancy dress parade at the 1965 show. EMN-170307-193248001

A very special anniversary will be celebrated this summer as Heckington busies itself preparing for its 150th village show.

A milestone that in a century and a half has seen the event grow to become Britain’s biggest village show, this year taking place on July 29-30.

Proud owners in the dog show at the 1965 Heckington Show. EMN-170307-193259001

Proud owners in the dog show at the 1965 Heckington Show. EMN-170307-193259001

The show retains many original Victorian elements but has moved on to offer a fabulous country day out for all. Around 35,000 people a year are drawn by its charm and quality.

The first show took place in 1863 and it remained a one-day event on a Tuesday to mark the 900-year-old annual village feast week of St Mary until it folded after the war. The current site has been the show’s venue since 1867.

It switched to a two-day weekend show when resurrected in 1964, when in a tentative experiment it was staged as little more than a flower and produce show in the village hall.

Charles Pinchbeck, who has been on the committee for 35 years and has been chairman for the last 23 years, said the original village feast was just a party.

Show chairman Charles Pinchbeck at the 149th Heckington Show. EMN-170307-192048001

Show chairman Charles Pinchbeck at the 149th Heckington Show. EMN-170307-192048001

He said: “It was the time of year when everyone went home and held ‘open house’. The fair was on the village green even before 1860 and the show was brought in to give it more structure and purpose. Some older people still call it ‘feast week’. We will be feeding 30 people on the Saturday night.

“It is an unwritten rule that everyone through the gates is treated as a guest - families, exhibitors and contractors.

“Everyone gets to show off what they are proud of, whether it is a vintage tractor or a prize bull, we are proud to share that with everybody as a community - it is fantastic - even more so today.”

Mr Pinchbeck recalls: “I was four when I first came to the show in 1967 and it is all I have ever known.”

149th Heckington Show. EMN-170307-192523001

149th Heckington Show. EMN-170307-192523001

His father, village GP Dr Frank Pinchbeck, was chairman before him. Many committee members have served over 20 years, some up to 40.

He believed the passion and enthusiasm of the band of volunteers has driven it through the generations, always thinking what they can do to make it better. He said: “We have a committee of 40 and for every person there are five more that help.”

Many things have remained true to a century or more ago, such as heavy horses being led to the show and inspected by experts. But now the descendants of those livestock are often paraded in front of people who have never seen one before, yet still appreciate it.

The Main Ring sees not one but two star attractions this time. Sunday features the Big Pete Monster Truck. The Saturday programme has the J C Balls Digger Dance supported by Ye Olde Redtail Falconry and the Red Devils Parachute Team.

149th Heckington Show. EMN-170307-192207001

149th Heckington Show. EMN-170307-192207001

The stunning firework concert on the Saturday evening is something which Mr Pinchbeck sees as the true birthday party that everyone is looking forward to. This year’s concert features Sleaford Concert Band playing to a firework finale, plus tribute band Queen II.

There will be a qualifying event for the Horse of the Year Show and in the hotly contested cycle races on the Saturday there will be not one but three national championship distances.

The sporting activities play a large part in the main ring events and names such as Harvey Smith, Victoria Pendleton and Sebastian Coe have all competed at Heckington Show.

Mr Pinchbeck said: “You find yourself doing things you really enjoy which you would not have done if you weren’t at the Heckington Show. There are so many different parts that would be events in their own right.”

Beyond the main ring there will be the usual trade-stands bringing together international brands such as Joules, Land Rover and John Deere with local groups.

Farmers see their breeds shape up against the best of the rest and there will be elements for dog lovers, rabbit enthusiasts, antique collectors, talented craftsmen and an incredible mix of living history displays – try out life as a Roman or Viking soldier, meet suffragettes and mint coins.

A food court promotes the best of Lincolnshire produce and there is a larger than ever Activity Zone.

Charles considered his input: “There are moments when you feel it is taking a lot of energy, but then everyone is looking forward to doing something together and why would I not want to be a part of that.”

He thought the show’s future looked healthier than ever thanks to its body of volunteers and the goodwill of the village. “It is a shared positive experience,” he summed up.

All this is included in the ticket price of £10 per day (adults) and £4 for under 18’s. Go online at www.heckingtonshow.org.uk where you can also buy tickets and download entry forms to actually take part.