This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
NCE more September is upon us, and with it the accustomed round of annual fetes of rural industry commence. Some thirteen or fourteen States have announced their days of holding State Fairs; and in all these States there are county and other local fairs, at which the best products of the farm and garden are to be brought forward for comparison and competition. The amount of money and time spent in this country annually on these occasions is enormous; but so far it has been well spent, for they have awakened a spirit of improvement that has conferred vast benefits upon the industry and resources of the country. They are not mere holidays with us, devoted to frivolous amusements, sight-seeing, and dissipation ; people go to these exhibitions to learn, and they bring with them the products of their skill and industry to compare with that of their neighbors', for mutual instruction and encouragement. The mere love of novelty can not induce so many thousands of intelligent people to leave their homes and business, and to incur all the toil and expense of attending these fairs. They have a higher purpose in view - they seek information; and in proportion as these shows afford facilities for obtaining this, will they become worthy of public patronage and support.
Hitherto the want of experience on the part of those who have been entrusted with the management of exhibitions has stood greatly in the way of their usefulness, and great dissatisfaction has arisen from people being unable to gain the information which they had just reason to expect. It is poor satisfaction for a man who has traveled hundreds of miles and made great sacrifices of personal comfort, to be jostled about in a crowd, scorched with heat and choked with dust, on the show grounds, and yet not be permitted to see the objects exhibited in such a manner as enables him to understand their merits. No pains should be spared in arranging and classifying all objects, not only in the grounds and on the tables, but in. printed catalogues, in such a way as to enable judges to discharge their duties easily and accurately, and spectators instantly to understand the position that each article occupies, and the degree of merit that has been awarded it.
We are glad to see that this matter is receiving attention, but we fear it has not been carried out as far as necessary. We shall confine our remarks chiefly to the department of horticulture. Our State Society, for instance, offers a premium "for the best twenty varieties of good table apples, three of each variety, named and labelled, grown by the exhibitor." Now, suppose that a dozen individuals should compete for this premium; each one should be required to show just twenty varieties - neither more nor less - and the twelve collections should be placed side by side on the tables, so that not only the judges but the spectators might easily make their comparisons. Each one should be designated by a number only until the judges have made their awards, and then the names of the exhibitors can be displayed as well as the awards. We have served enough on committees to know that some such an arrangement is absolutely necessary to ensure accurate decisions. Horetofore the general practice has been for every exhibitor to display his objects where he chose, and a dozen competitors for such a premium as we have quoted, would exhibit in a dozen different places, and have these twenty varieties of apples mixed up with twenty other varieties and a great collection of other fruits, leaving it for the committees to select varieties as they thought proper, and run about from one table to another to make their comparisons, thus losing their time and scarcely ever arriving at correct conclusions because it was impossible to do so under the circumstances.
So we would have it in regard to " the best ten varieties of table apples," "the best seedling apple," "the best twelve varieties of pears," and, in short, every special object, or class of objects, for which a prize is offered. Let them be placed together and each be conspicuously designated, so that judges and spectators may know at once what particular merit the exhibitor claims for his articles. Then, again, amateur and professional cultivators should be assigned separate tables or departments, and not be permitted to mingle their contributions; and each of these departments should be conspicuously designated, that no doubt could be entertained as to what class they belonged to. Then, again, every exhibitor who shows twenty varieties of apples, or ten varietes, or six varieties, or any number of varieties of apples or other fruits, should prepare a list of the same, and then when the judges have decided, they should insert in their reports the names of the varieties to which they awarded the prize and state the principal points of merit, which could be done in a few words.
If this were carried out, we should have useful reports instead of mere barren announcements that such a prize was awarded Mr. A., and such another to Mr. B., which amounts to nothing in the end, as far as the great aim and end of the show is concerned.
Another great difficulty is generally experienced in securing the services of faithful and competent judges, who appreciate the importance of the duties assigned them, and are willing to discharge them with care and patience. No fault can be found in general with the selections made by the Society; but it very often happens that of a committee of four or five not more than one or two will make their appearance, and the vacancies must be filled by such as can be found on the grouud. Now, it is a responsible and delicate duty that committees have to perform, requiring careful and patient investigation and sound judgment, and, therefore, the greatest care should be taken in filling vacancies. There are always a number of persons ready to offer their services on committees, and especially on "tasting committees," who regard the duty as being simply to eat up everything that comes before them, if at all eatable. To allow such persons to associate themselves with committees is a manifest outrage upon the exhibitors as well as upon public decency. Every year we are surprized to see how far this thing is carried by persons of whom better might be expected.
Committees should understand that they have no right, more than others, to cut up, eat and destroy people's fruits, and when they do so they should be exposed and punished. A mere taste to test the quality is all that is necessary and all that decency would permit We think it would be well for every society to define the righto and duties of its committees and have them printed on every schedule of prizes, so that there could be no mistake.
There is another point still to which we must call attention, and it is this: Both committees and exhibitors are generally at fault in not having their arrangements completed in good season. We have seen it happen more than once, that in the horticultural department of our State Fairs all the dishes for the display of fruits had to be procured, and all the fruits arranged, after the hour when all should have been submitted to the inspection of the judges. The consequence was that there was nothing but confusion and grumbling on all sides; nothing was right - nobody pleased. Timely and ample arrangements should by all means be made. It is much easier to make them before a crowd of uneasy exhibitors arrive, than afterwards. Abundance of water, dishes of various sizes, vases, pitchers, etc., etc., should all be in the hall in good season and placed in the hands of a person whose duty it would be to give them out as called for. Then officers should be in waiting to assign every exhibitor his position immediately on his arrival, so that he would not be subjected to the trouble and annoyance of inquiring all around where he could place his articles for exhibition.
Exhibitors, too, would save themselves much trouble by being early on the ground and having their arrangements completed before visitors are admitted. Judges, too, should have their duties all discharged before a rush of spectators is admitted to interrupt or annoy them.
We feel it to be a very important matter for the country that these great shows be conducted with the strictest regard to order and regularity. The points to which we have called attention briefly, are but a few among the many that should receive attentive consideration, in order that the greatest possible amount of good may be derived from the time and money expended.