Newent Onion Fayre and the Northern Branch Championships
4th Oct 2001
August and September have been particularly hectic this year, the wife and myself weren't home on any weekend as we were attending different shows at various parts of the country.
Newent Onion Fayre
On Saturday the 8th September I travelled down to judge the Newent Onion Fayre near Gloucester and what an interesting day it tuned out to be. I have judged many shows during my growing career but I have never judged one when every class was one cultivar, onions.
The show dates back centuries but had only recently beer revived after it closed down during the 1920s. The whole day is truly fantastic attracting thousands of people of all ages to the town. The onion show, though an important part of the day, is only tiny to all the other activities that goes on there. The whole town is closed off for the whole day to traffic with hundreds of stalls there with something to offer to everyone in the family. I was particularly entranced with the two men who were making and selling ropes of onions all day. There was no string at all used just strong raffia and a whole rope of onions only took a matter of minutes to complete.
The competitive classes were well attended with classes for the heaviest, quality, onions from sets, red onions, shallots, string of onions as well as a collection of onions. What did amaze me was the superb quality of some of the entries and worthy of being entered at a much higher level. The class for a rope of onions proved to be a hatrick for George Trigg who had the best rope of onions I have seen for a long time. Everything about is smacked of excellence, every onion was of high quality and of the same size and shape and the actual putting together of it took him two hours without using a piece of string. For his efforts I awarded him the best exhibit in the show which was the National vegetable Society Silver medal.
The other class that was of a very high standard was the collection of onions where they asked for onions over 8 ounces, onions under eight ounces Large shallots and pickling shallots. The winner of this class was Martin Davies from Gloucester who put up, not only a high quality entry, but a superbly staged one down to the finest detail. I have always said that the staging of vegetables is important, after all the word 'showing" means very simply to show an exhibit off to the public at it's very best. If this is done correctly, using quality vegetables, judges can not help but be impressed and their first impression will always lead them back to a well staged entry.
Next year this show is going to expand their schedule accommodating even more of the Allium family by introducing blanch and pot leeks as well as salad onions. My thanks to Mike and June Davies as well as all the other people attached to the show who made my day at a show a very different one.
Northern Branch Championships
Whilst I was at Newent my wife had travelled down to the Northern Branch Championships at Rotherham to stage a few entries for me, in particular a set of 5 onions for the over 250 gram class at the Rotherham section of the show. I was very pleased to hear that I not only won this class but received three shields as well as the NVS silver medal including best exhibit in the whole show. However, very sadly, when I got to the show on Sunday my onions had been damaged to such an extent that three of them were beyond further showing. Some demented person had dug his or her nails into the shoulder of one onion and in so doing tearing apart the outer skin. The skins around the shoulder of another two had also been torn.
Of course this could easily have been avoided had there been some ropes around the exhibits to prevent these crazy people from getting their hands on them. These onions were probably the best that I had ever grown and was hoping to stage them the following weekend at Harrogate. However, I hope that my constructive criticism will be taken on board by the show organisers in readiness for next year. On a more positive note, the short time I spent at the show was a joy, with thousands of people allowed to enter free of charge and again was something for everyone there. I hope that the Northern Branch of the NVS will once more be invited there as the organisers, apart from my own disaster, went out of their way to accommodate the NVS Northern Branch committee in their staging of the superb exhibits that were on show.