AFTER overcoming so many obstacles to stage this year’s Great Yorkshire Show, the organisers could have been forgiven for having despaired as heavy rain poured down on Monday, soaking the Harrogate showground.

As it turned out, they had nothing to worry about. Yesterday’s early damp gave way to hot sunshine by mid-morning, sizzling the 26,000 visitors lucky enough to have tickets for the first day of the reduced capacity event. And boy, was it good to be back.

As with so many of 2020’s live events, last year’s show was called off due to Covid, with attractions moving online. This year it is being staged over four days for the first time, and many of those attending yesterday were full of praise for organisers the Yorkshire Agricultural Society for getting the show on.

After taking the first major livestock championship, Ian Collins of Whitley near Dewsbury, said: “It is fantastic to be out at the show and I want to say a huge thank you to the Great Yorkshire Show for having the courage to find a way to do it.”

He took the Dairy Supreme Championship with his Dairy Shorthorn Churchroyd Bronte Wildeyes, and dedicated his win to his mother Mary, who started the family farm and who died in November.

Apart from the move to a four-day show and the ticket limit, the only really standout changes were the one-way system in the food hall which made queuing to get in a necessity, the reduced capacity in the main ring grandstand, and the lack of public access to the cattle sheds.

Covid marshals were out and about making sure people adhered to social distancing guidelines, the lower number of visitors meant many of the usually-packed avenues were much more easily negotiable – and the traffic getting in and out of the showground was less congested.

But the Great Yorkshire Show was still very much the Great Yorkshire Show. The livestock was as high class as ever, the Whitakers were battling it out in the showjumping, and the Yorkshire Volunteers Band were playing “On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at”.

Farmer Rachel Mudd, from Kepwick, near Thirsk, who was showing in the commercial cattle classes with partner Craig Bentley and their children Matthew and Isla, summed up the feelings of so many when she said: “It’s just great to be here and actually see people again.”

As ever, there were plenty of celebrities to spot, with TV presenters Anita Rani and Jules Hudson filming a two-part TV series Today at The Great Yorkshire Show which will go out on Channel 5 at 8pm on Wednesday and Thursday night. There will also be a special called This Week at the Great Yorkshire Show which will air on Saturday at 5pm.

Peter Wright and Julian Norton from the Yorkshire Vet were also filming, while Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen was signing books on the Welcome to Yorkshire stand, and chatting to fans.

One of the show’s biggest celebs was much less conversational, however. Ripon Farm Services played host to the John Deere X9 1100 combine harvester, said to be the largest and most advanced piece of machinery of its kind in the world. Its cab boasts such luxuries as a massage chair and fridge, and many-a-visitor stopped for a selfie in front of its enormous header.

Richard Simpson, commercial director of Ripon Farm Services, said it has been described as the “best office in the country”.

Nearby on the machinery avenues, one of the smartest stands belonged to Russells. The firm, which has depots across Yorkshire, including in Northallerton, and Leyburn, is marking 100 years as a limited company in 2021, and alongside its state of the art agricultural equipment, some classics from previous eras were on show, including a spectacularly smart Ford 7810 that drew many an admiring glance.

As the day drew to a close, and the happy crowds started to drift away, show director Charles Mills said it had been “emotional”.

“To miss last year was terrible, to miss two years in a row would have been devastating so it has been incredible to be able to organise a show this year,” he said. “We are just so sorry we can’t accommodate everyone on site as we have to stick to a strict capacity to keep everyone safe and all tickets have sold. We look forward to a safe and enjoyable day two.”