The Ag Show must go on, says organiser
In a year dominated by lockdowns, physical distancing and pandemic fatigue, the Ag Show has provided a welcome relief for organisers and participants .
Cathy Bassett, a volunteer schools coordinator for the Agricultural Exhibition, said that children who missed school and playing with their friends had found purpose and pride in the creation of their exhibits.
Ms Bassett added: “We are in the midst of a pandemic and families are hurting. A lot of parents are saying that because their kids have had something meaningful and creative to do, it has lessened the anxiety that they are having.
“One parent said she was so glad there was something her daughter could do to alleviate all the stress. She had something to focus on each day, she worked hard at it and when she finished, it was such a wondrous feeling.
“Everything we have been through that is bad this year has been replaced by something wonderful.”
A handful of volunteers and officials have been at the Bermuda Botanical Gardens in preparation for today’s official opening.
The three-day event usually attracts up to 20,000 visitors, but because of Covid-19 it will be broadcast in a virtual format only.
Antwan Albuoy, the exhibition director, said entries were down about 50 per cent on a normal year.
But he added: “The show must go on”.
Mr Albuoy said the Agricultural Exhibition had been cancelled only three times in its 81-year history, including last year after the pandemic hit the island.
He added: “We didn’t want to cancel because we got a lot of e-mails from teachers saying the schoolchildren were looking forward to it.”
There will be no animal exhibitions and the Bermuda Poultry Fanciers Society was unable to set up cages for the birds because they could not miss more work than they already had through the pandemic.
Another category that took a hit was baked goods which cannot be judged on taste this year.
Arts and crafts created by Bermuda’s schoolchildren were bursting with colour and creativity.
But some school-based categories suffered as many pupils had to catch up on school work they had missed.
Mr Albuoy explained: “Some students had to go into quarantine when they were in the process of submitting their entry forms and so couldn’t enter.
“Then coming out of lockdown, teachers were getting back into the classrooms and some students were behind. Returning to school they were tasked with other things.”
The Garden Club of Bermuda was unable to organise its usual flower arranging competition, but a few members created floral displays in the Horticultural Hall.
Debbie Burville, the club’s floral art co-chairwoman, said: “It is our 100th anniversary and we are also doing a float in Hamilton today. We are going to do traditional and modern designs for the Ag Show.”
Judy Kitson, a member of the Bermuda Orchid Society, was manning plant displays in the Commercial Slat House.
She said: “What you see is probably half of what we usually get. Covid has definitely had an impact but we have a few very devoted members who are extraordinary with their talents.”
Ms Kitson added that, despite the problems of the pandemic, it was important that the show go ahead.
She asked: “Doesn’t everybody love the Ag Show? Isn’t it the most iconic event in Bermuda?”
Jerriko Gibbons, a regular volunteer for the event, was at the other end of the slat house putting on display the handful of vegetables entered.
He said: “It is different not seeing everybody here. We don’t have the chickens and horses, the good food, the good people …
“The Ag Show gives people a chance to show off what they have been doing in their spare time – this is what they love to do. It is a big tradition in Bermuda and most people look forward to it every year.”