The SWAG fleece and halter show at The Royal Bath and West Show 27th – 30th May 2015.
The annual South West Alpaca Group halter show took place once again at the Royal Bath and West Showground near Shepton Mallet. This year also saw the return of the SWAG fleece show which has been absent for several years.
The show organising team, ably led by Di Davies, had been given a new location at the showground for 2015 but had lost the large marquee (previously supplied by the Bath and West Show) due to financial pressures on the show organisers.
However, with an improved location (previously known as the Countryside Arena) and using the newly purchased but much smaller SWAG marquees, there was a concerted effort to stage a full agenda lasting the four days of the show.
With visitor numbers to the show anticipated to be well in excess of 150,000, making it one of the biggest agricultural shows in the country, we were committed and determined to provide an alpaca presence for all four days. This was achieved and momentum built over the four days culminating in a large public crowd gathering in the sunshine to watch the Supreme Championships being awarded on Saturday afternoon.
Day one saw a group of skilled crafts people transforming a skirted fleece into various garments, knitted, woven and felted. The whole process was overseen by Val Fullerlove who gave a talk to the assembled public on the qualities and versatility of alpaca fibre. This talk was replicated again in the afternoon and although the public hadn’t quite discovered the alpaca marquee in droves the numbers were building.
On day two Val was joined by apprentice judge Julia Corrigan-Stewart to tackle in excess of 80 fleece show entries. Members of the public did pop in and out of the fibre marquee both to witness the fleeces being judged and to ask questions of the assembled fibre processors who stayed bravely in the strong gusty winds to parade their skills and wares.
On Friday morning the livestock trailers started rumbling in for the start of the halter show with 180 alpacas expected from 34 different breeders. In order to provide shelter if the weather turned nasty and making use of the larger area that we had been allocated, the trailers were driven into the ring with pens constructed behind them. As the ring filled up we expanded into the grassy area surrounding the arena and a splendid alpaca community was formed. This undoubtedly had an effect on the visiting public as the alpacas could be seen from a long distance away and the crowds really did start gathering during the halter show.
The halter show itself was judged by Shirley Bettinson assisted by apprentice judge, Jo Bridge. Rob Bettinson provided some highly informative and entertaining commentary.
Shortly after the judges were introduced, in true UK weather style, the heavens opened and for an hour or so it absolutely poured down. It is at this point that the large marquee was missed the most with the gusty wind propelling the rain sideways it became difficult, despite gazebos and trailers being utilised, for anyone or anything to remain dry!
However, the show must go on and when the rain eased off the judging of the black classes began in somewhat snug and humid conditions inside the larger of the two SWAG marquees. Thankfully the rain soon abated and we all moved out into the large outside ring.
With the weather steadily improving and plenty of alpacas on display, the crowds gradually grew peaking late on into day two when it literally was standing room only.
The halter show had reverted from its usual format of an age championship to the more inclusive colour championship format with Suri and Huacaya classes being judged alternately.
Both top prizes and congratulations went to Mick and Liz George of Houghton Hall Alpacas with the Supreme Huacaya award being claimed by the adult white male, Houghton Bellino and the Supreme Suri title awarded to the intermediate white female, Houghton Made You Look (ET).
Mick and Liz George with Houghton Bellino.
Liz George with Houghton Made you look.
The best Huacaya fleece prize was awarded to the white fleece of Ashwood Hope, owned by Steve and Chris Powell of Ashwood Alpacas and the Suri prize went to the beige fleece of Pure Ruby, owned by Jay Holland of Pure Alpacas.
Chris Powell collecting the top Huacaya fleece prize.
Gary Naish (ring steward extraordinaire) collecting the Suri fleece prize on behalf of Jay Holland.
The Best of British award, given to the best alpaca born in the UK from UK bred sire and dam, was claimed by Valley Alpacas the General, owned by Mr P Lane and Miss D House of Lane House Alpacas. Jodi Lane and Diane House with Valley Alpacas The General.
All in all the new show format was a resounding success, with positive comments coming from both exhibitors and judges as well as from the organisers of the Bath and West Show itself. It is certainly something for the organisers to build on for next year.
Finally, our show organiser, Di Davies (Alpha Alpacas), enjoying more success in the ring.
Thank you to all who entered fleeces or came along with your alpacas and a huge thank you to our judges. We have already been in talks with the organisers of The Royal Bath and West and are planning to make the SWAG show even better in 2016.
It is your alpaca show so please support it, without you, we have no show! We hope to see you all there next year!