All roads lead to the Agricultural Pavilion in Lower Valley for the fiftieth Agricultural Show on Ash Wednesday, Mar. 1 to an event that has grown from humble beginnings in central George Town to one of Cayman’s best attended and most treasured annual events.
Not only is it a fantastic showcase of every element of the farming community, there is much more to enjoy for all the family.
It is not just a celebration of all the wonderful produce and animals that Cayman’s hard-working farmers and growers create, the show’s appeal is down to the entertainment, competitions, food vendors and legendary raffle prizes that make it such a magnet for thousands.
Many Cayman residents have become too reliant on imported processed food and the back to basics, farm-to-table ethos of this show is another great reason why it attracts so many and deserves support.
There is a deep religious context to why it’s always staged on Ash Wednesday too, the first day of Lent which signifies 40 fasting days and six non-fasting Sundays before Easter which this year falls on Sunday, Apr. 16. Matthew, Mark, Luke and Jesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert and Lent mirrors this.
Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of blessing ashes made from palm branches and placing them on the heads of participants in the sign of a cross.
Lent is intended to be a time of self-denial, moderation, fasting, and the forsaking of sinful activities and habits. Hence why many people give up something for Lent, be it chocolate, alcohol or potato chips. Many carnivals in the Caribbean have just been staged in deference to the start of Lent. They had their fun and now there is a solemn observance of Lent until after Easter.
For those attending the Agricultural Show, they will not be disappointed because organisers are intent on ensuring that the golden jubilee of this Caymanian icon is the biggest and best in its history. There is the traditional baby competition and also a Miss Farm Queen competition for women aged between 16-35.
Seeing farm animals close up for some people is a rarity, especially kids, and one of the most popular aspects of the show is the livestock display and a petting zoo.
Farmer Clarence McLaughlin, who is featured on page 8 of this paper’s issue, will have his array of produce on display. He has seen the show evolve considerably since childhood and attended it where the library is now in George Town. The show actually inspired him to pursue a career in agriculture as he used to look forward to seeing the donkeys and mules which everyone rode.
Josh Clark is another local farmer who used to enjoy walking around and looking at the animals, but the thing he enjoyed most was seeing the locally sourced food.
The show is seen as a marker for Cayman’s agricultural development. Farmers are constantly finding ways of growing new lines and are proud to show off their handiwork. It all makes for a kaleidoscope of colours, textures and smells. In many parts of the world, people have to pay a premium for organic produce but in Cayman items such as avocado, papaya, mango, sweetsop, soursop, tomato, eggplant, peppers and luscious herbs such as thyme, rosemary and lemongrass are of the highest quality.
Tropical plants are in abundance to buy too, particularly those grown by the Department of Agriculture.
The entertainment is so diverse that anyone attending is spoilt for choice. Besides everything already mentioned, there is also musical entertainment provided by the Swanky Kitchen Band, pony rides, a cooking competition, a martial arts demonstration, a vegetable competition and a gospel show. Something for everybody, which is partly why the Agricultural Show is never missed by a whole swathe of Cayman Islands residents.