So, here I am with less than 2 weeks to go, frantically racking my brains for ideas and sending out urgent requests to Club members I know (a very small number so far) for Halloween themed honey and wax-based products.
Luckily, there are plenty of folk in LBKA who are up for a challenge AND are incredibly creative to boot. Over the first few days I was able to assemble a crack team to conjure up the 3x honeys, 3x waxes / candles, 2x honey-based confectionery and 2x honey / wax-based anything other than honey itself!
We decided the 2 “a.n.other” items should be edible products. And so, Chris, Emma, Tom and I settled down for a hard slog in the kitchen, scouring the internet for interesting ideas of culinary uses for honey, twisting old ones and inventing new ones. After countless failed batches of boiled sweets, fudge, toffee and chocolate truffles, two days before the Show, we finalised our items: 1 light, 1 medium and 1 set honey from the Club Apiary (thanks girls!), 3 candles, white chocolate truffles, dark chocolate & pistachio toffee, flapjack and haw & honey syrup.
But not just plain old candles, chocolates and flapjack!
The candles were elaborate displays of skulls; the truffles were ghost and pumpkin-shaped “ghoulish ganache”; the flapjacks were decorated to look like mummies (I kid you not); and the syrup was a “witches’ brew”! Chris and I swapped pics and videos, and spent many an hour arranging and rearranging the items to turn them into an eye-catching display.
The judging criteria for the Branch Cooperation Class clearly state: “The exhibit will be judged on both the quality of the individual items and the visual appeal of the display.” By the time I’d finished shuffling the exhibits late the night before I was confident we were going to make jaws drop.
And we’d either come away with the trophy … or be instantly disqualified.
Wow! I’d been warned, but stepping into the hall was mind-blowing. OK, it might have been a scruffy old school gym, but half of it was crammed with tables covered in white table cloths and jar upon jar of honey. At least that was what caught my eye first: light honey, medium honey, dark honey, heather honey, set honey, granulated honey of dazzling hues. All in catching jars, labels exactly horizontal and precisely 2 cm above the bottom of the jar. Rows of them. And what looked to be hundreds of beekeepers in white cotton gloves reverentially polishing their jars before painstakingly placing them in a neat and tidy row.
More than ever aware of my new-bee status, I sidled in and found the table set aside for Class 43: Branch Cooperation Class. And started creating! Half an hour later, I decided there was no more that I could do.
And had lost count of the number of people who’d stopped in front of the display and congratulated us on its originality and clever theming.
At 11:00 on the dot, the judges closed and barred the doors of the hall, and settled themselves down for what seemed an interminable length of time.
At 3:30, we were all back, pacing nervously outside the doors which still displayed the “Closed for judging” sign. 3:45, the time the award ceremony was due to start, came and went. One of the judges emerged and staggered by with a crate of glasses – they’d clearly reached Classes 32-34: the 75cl bottles of sweet mead, dry mead and honey wine – and then staggered back empty-handed. And still the sign remained.
4:00 … 4:15 … 4:30 … 4:45, and finally the door swung open and we were invited back in. We swarmed, dashing in, eyes turned to where we’d set up our entries, eager to catch sight of a coveted red “First prize” certificate beside our entry. And dreading seeing our efforts turned label to the wall, denoting disqualification.
The reason for the delay? This year there were an unprecedented 390 entries across the 45 classes. Even at an average rate of 10 mins per Class, the judges would have needed nearly 8 hours to get through them all. No wonder they were looking somewhat frazzled by this stage.
Sadly, it meant we had barely any time to admire the entries or see how other people had fared before the ceremony began.
As did our success!
Class 1 (Two 454g Jars of Light Honey) went to our very own Chair – Chris Humphreys.
As did Class 4 (Two 454g Jars of Heather Honey).
Both thoroughly deserved – Chris’ lime blossom and heather honeys are exquisite.
Chris also put together an entry of honey from the Club Apiary into one of the open classes (Class 19: Three 454g Jars of Different Types of Honey) earning us a “Highly Commended”.
Class 22 (Two Pieces of Cut Comb Honey) was won by Nicola Hacking, and her children were awarded chocolate bars for their entries into Class 38 (A Plate of Honey Sweets or Chocolates)
And then Tom Cross’ “One Decorated Honey Cake” walked away with the trophy for Class 36. His Winnie the Pooh decorations were spectacular and the judges obviously thought it delicious when they cut into and sampled it. Immediately after supping on their alcoholic beverages … or perhaps they reversed the order and washed the cake down with a nice glass of dry mead?
Then, what seemed an age later we reached the awarding of the E. McCormick President’s Branch Shield, for highest number of points across the 3 collaborative classes (43-45): the Branch Cooperation, Bee Season Calendar & Six 454g Jars of Honey from the Club Apiary.
I figured that with 2 First and 1 Second place, it must be ours. And it was!
For the first time ever, Lancaster Beekeepers Association had won the Branch Shield.
I am determined it will not be the last!
I can’t finish this account of my exploits at Lancs & NW Honey Show, though, without giving a massive thank you to Chris Humphreys, Tom Cross, and Emma Wright Crooks – I could (literally) not have managed to pull together our entry without their ideas, enthusiasm and stunning contributions.
Roll on next year’s event … & look out all: we shall be back!