Village and Vale
ASK the 60,000 or so people who attended Dorset County Show last weekend what they liked best and you will probably get almost as many different answers.
Some people love the ferret racing best, others make a beeline for the honey classes. Most are drawn to the main ring even if it is just to see what all the noise is about, others can't resist the trade stands with new cars gleaming in the sunshine and kitchen gadgets and dog beds and diamante browbands for pampered ponies.
More than a few spend hours talking to people who restore and cherish old tractors, or want to see every one of the hundreds of photos exhibited in the homecraft section.
It is the place to admire supersize veg and fabulous flowers, laugh at funny scarecrows, be tempted by food and drink - the best of which is surely produced in Dorset - try free samples of this and that, gather leaflets to read later, enter competitions and bump into friends.
Buy One Dorset Cream Tea (1 large scone, clotted cream, jam and a pot of tea for 1) get one FREE. Why not try our delicious ginger & treacle scones with plum jam?
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It is where children suddenly discover they want to know everything about wildlife so that parents can hardly drag them away from the Dorset Wildlife Trust stand with its quizzes involving real skulls and vivid descriptions of animal poo.
It is the place for dogs of all shapes and sizes to make new doggy pals and for everyone, horsey or not, to be impressed by the equine stars of the show ring and showjumping arenas.
It is the place for thrilling spectacle as - this year - the Kangaroo Kids quadbike stunt riders did their stuff and the utterly magnificent Devil's Horsemen did theirs.
But this is the annual showcase event of the Dorchester Agricultural Society, founded in 1840 - the year of Thomas Hardy's birth - and farming remains the heart of the show.
The razzmatazz, the shopping mall with its jewellery and handbags, the home improvements people, the funfair would not be there without the farmers who drive it all.
At some point most of the 60,000 are drawn to the livestock. They might not understand the finer points of different breeds of cattle, sheep, pigs and goats but they know the passion and commitment involved in breeding and showing animals when they see it.
And the commentators add another dimension for those who watch and wonder what the judges are looking for. Pig expert David Yates is a favourite - entertaining and informative as he explains to the crowd clustering round the pig judging ring what they need to know.
Simon Ledger does most of the main ring commentary and he is surely the voice of the show, combining enthusiasm and expertise and enhancing the experience for showgoers.
Sometimes only a cliché will do and it is truly the case that this year's show has been bigger and better than ever with more entries, bigger marquees, thumping great crowds, terrific entertainment, and a wonderfully smooth operation of everything from traffic management to reuniting lost children and parents.
Ask me what I liked best and I can't give one answer. It was Dante, the Devil's Horsemen's gorgeous black stallion famous from a well known bank commercial, and the scent of roses in the floral pavilion, and the Tamworth piglet lying down in the show ring to have its tummy tickled, and a sleek Jaguar in the classic car line.
The willingness of experts like onion champ Ron Benfield to share their tips for success. And a bit of shopping, of course. And meeting friends.
And meeting the dogs – and the people – at the Greyhound Rescue West of England stand where Ruby the ex-racer leaned on me because she's soppy and so am I.
That leaves about 59,999 people to give their reasons why they love the show. It could take until 6th and 7th September, 2014, when the whole caboodle starts again.