Ferret PR Shows
by Sheila Crompton
I thought that the outbreak of foot and mouth was going to really affect Bolton Ferret Welfare very badly with so many shows being cancelled or postponed (The National Ferret Fair being a victim of a postponement); in April our bookings for shows was looking decidedly sick with our first show being in Sheffield at the end of May - the show I normally do has been cancelled owing to the organisers becoming victims of their own success i.e. the show has just got too big for them to find enough volunteers to do the work involved in putting on the Minster Lions Leisure and Motor Show.
Towards the end of April I was fortunate to get 6 bookings for shows, two of which were the first and second weekends in May, I should have been getting the newsletter put together at this time however I was left with trying to get everything sorted out for the shows.
The first show was The East Yorkshire Garden and Kite Festival held at Beverley Race Course, the second one being the Teesside Garden Festival at Yarm.
For a number of years I had been using a caravan and awning plus a gazebo however, since Ron's death on the 31st May last year I have found that the caravan and awning were getting too much for me to cope with on my own plus there was the additional expense of the storage for caravan.
I bought a 9ft x 15ft frame tent (I have not gone metric and have no intentions of doing so) for the ferrets, myself, Maggie plus our four lurchers accommodation, I also managed to pick up a 3' x 4' trailer fairly cheaply for carrying the additional camping equipment etc.
Maggie wasn't able to be with me at Beverley but she made it to Yarm. We did think that it would have taken us longer to set up using a tent but too our surprise it took the same time as using the caravan, the tent being so much easier to erect than a caravan awning.
Just in case any of you are wondering just what is entailed in doing shows here is my rough timetable of events leading up the show:
The first things to go into the van are the racing pipes, Mike Neale very kindly fitted a rack for them inside my Transit van, the rack stops the pipes rolling around the back of the van and utilises the space above the offside wheel arch, under the pipes there is just enough room to slide in a couple of folding chairs. The 'knocked-down' play pens are loaded in, the tops and bottoms are behind the seats to keep the load in place in the back of the van behind these are metal box containing odds ends of things that might prove useful and on top of the box a small generator, the ends of the playpens are stored behind a couple of cages along with the sales table (paste table), the front and backs of the play pens are tied to racing pipe rack. The open top playpen is secured behind more cages along with the notice boards. Next in are the four large cages, two either side of the van, food and water bottles are placed in the cages and the ferrets are transferred to them. Our sleeping bags, airbeds, pillows, kitchen towels etc are crammed into place between the top of the cages and the roof of the van. Between these cages is another of the larger cages, on top of which goes a camping table and the dogs' beds plus various polythene storage boxes. The camp kitchen and a table slide into place between the cages which still leaves plenty space for air circulation round the mesh fronts of the cages. On the nearside of the van I've made a platform over the wheel arch to take a couple of the smaller cages, these go in next. The starting traps for the racing go on top of these cages. Next in are three more of the smaller top opening cages.
The frame of the gazebo are put inside the racing pipes along with the poles for roping off the racing and ferret walking areas. Added to the load for the van and trailer are bags of shredded paper, newspapers, ferret food, dog food, our supplies, a couple of gallon bottles of water, spare water bottles, feed bowls, paint scrapers for cage cleaning, spray bottles, first aid kit, camping cooker, pans etc, gas bottle, sales goods, bin bags etc etc. The whole loading process takes me around 3 hours steady working. I always try to load and travel at night - cooler for the ferrets plus less traffic. The dogs used to get under foot when I was loading but they are becoming used to process - they tend to stand on the front door step and watch every move wondering just when they are going to be allowed into the van.
Maggie got a new lurcher (a rescue) just before the Yarm show so that she now has to travel to shows in her own small car. It was bad enough travelling with 3 lurchers but the fourth one just wouldn't fit in anywhere. Mobile phones are a boon when it comes to keeping in touch with the North Yorkshire branch of Bolton Ferret Welfare when we are on the road - I originally bought my mobile because of Ron's ill health, just in case we were at a show ground and I had to call for help for him.
Once I've located our site on the show ground the first job is to get the ferrets out of the back of the van - if it is cool they will stay where they are until the tent is erected, otherwise they are placed in any shade cast by the van. Once the tent is up and the groundsheet in place the cages are transferred to it, water and food are checked and then we turn our attention to setting up the cooking arrangements - got to get the kettle on for a drink... thermos flasks are OK but there's nowt like a fresh brew. The gazebo is put up in front of the tent. The racing pipes etc are laid out. The playpens are assembled and the first batches of ferrets are allowed to stretch their legs. Setting up can take up to three hours, no sense in trying to rush things. Tracking down a water supply is the next job; one reason for carrying a couple of gallons of fresh water in the van is to save time on arrival at a show.
I actually prefer to set up the day before a show is due to take place, it's just nice to relax, unwind and get a nights sleep before having to meet the public. However I wasn't able to do so for the Yarm show, Maggie couldn't make it until the Friday morning - we were just about ready when the public were allowed into the show. It wasn't too crowded and we just had a steady stream of folk looking at the ferrets - one shock we did get was when we found out that the show didn't close until 8pm. I'd driven overnight, snatched a couple of hours sleep in a lay-by on the A1, we'd started unloading just before 8am and were hoping to have had an evening meal, taken the dogs for a walk and more or less be ready to settle down for the night by then.
The weather was absolutely marvellous for the three days, if anything it was too hot - racing was OK, as the pipes are painted white so they reflect the sun and they do keep remarkably cool. Sue Lloyd a NFWS member who lives locally came round to give us a hand on the Saturday morning - it is surprising what a difference having an extra pair of hands makes - many thanks Sue.
The following three photographs were taken at Whalley Abbey in 2000. I enjoyed doing events there - it was hard work carrying equipment from the van to the site as I couldn't get drive close enough. However the setting made up for that.
(First published May 2001)