J. M. Cooper, County Agricultural Agent Eastland, Texas
A county pecan show is the greatest tool at a person's disposal to stimulate interest in the pecan industry in a specified county. Tours, field meetings, talks, demonstrations, and other methods of stimulating interest are fine. In fact, they are necessary but will not develop the interest that a county pecan show will develop.
The initial prerequisite for a successful county pecan show is a genuine interest on the part of the organizer. If this prerequisite can be met, the job is not nearly so difficult. It will be something new and different but please remember that it will be worthwhile.
Interest has increased in the Eastland County Pecan Show to the extent that there were 242 entries in the fifth annual show in December 1957. These entries were divided into twenty different classes in addition to the native seedlings. A successful show may be made up of 100 entries which may be assured by obtaining pledges for this number from the pecan growers in the county. All county shows are, and probably will continue to be, conducted in different ways; but in Eastland County it has been found that the most effective method in obtaining entries is to have pickup stations in several towns throughout the county. Last winter pickup stations were located in Ranger, Gorman, and Rising Star. Growers in those areas were asked to take or send their entries into these stations where they were picked up. One station was a Chamber of Commerce office and the other two were stores.
A great deal of publicity concerning the show is given through the six newspapers and one radio station in Eastland County. In view of the value of publicity, one person should be charged with the responsibility of publicizing the show.
By all means do not overlook the pecans growing in the yards of urban people. A widow in town with one tree in the backyard can be just as proud of the 20 pounds of nuts she produces as the man with a 1,000-tree orchard. Invite them to bring or send their entries to the show.
A suitable show site which may be found in the form of a vacant store building in the busiest part of town is an important factor. Care should be taken to make sure that the utilities are turned on. Such precautions are necessary in order to have heat for the cold days in November and December when the shows are held and electricity for a calculator among other uses.
During the first Eastland County Shows no attempt was made to decorate the building, but for the past two shows the building has been made more attractive with mistletoe, bright colored crepe paper streamers, and other material. An attractive show place will help to insure a successful show.
Rules and regulations should be published early. Interest may be developed in the show by using the regulations as the basis of several newspaper articles. A few of the necessary rules will be discussed here:
- Pecans must have been grown by persons exhibiting them.
- Nuts exhibited must be from the current crop.
- Each exhibitor should be limited to one entry of various improved (papershell) varieties, but not limited as to the number of native seedling entries.
- Nuts should be left in the show until a certain hour, usually 4 p.m. on the last day of the show.
A small amount of capital is essential for the operation of a show. The Cisco Chamber of Commerce has financed the Eastland County Show each year. The expenses of this annual show have grown along with its size. Ninety dollars were requested and received for the 1957 show. Thirty-five of these dollars went to the County Home Demonstration Council who conducted the important Bake Division. This Division was made up of pecan cakes, pies, cookies, and candy. Those items offered for sale were cakes, coffee, and sandwiches.
Small cash premiums are awarded the winners. It may not be worthwhile, but the practice will be continued in the Eastland County Show. None of the winners have yet refused the checks. The first place premium is $1.00 plus a ribbon, second place is $.75 plus a ribbon, and third place is a ribbon. Varieties with less than three entries are judged and ribbons are given, but no cash prizes. The exhibitor of the grand champion entry receives $2.50 and the reserve grand champion receives $1.50, with rosettes being awarded to both.
The exhibitors are very fond of their ribbons. The prize money is spent, but the ribbons are treasured to the extent that they are shown to friends, neighbors, and relatives. They are eventually exhibited in a place of prominence in the home. The value of such ribbons should not be overlooked.
Tables will be needed for the show. After a trial of several types of tables in the Eastland County Show, card tables have been favored in recent shows. About thirty of these light portable tables were used last year. They were decorated with green and red crepe paper to fit the Christmas theme of the season. Aluminum foil was used to cover the otherwise drab plain paper plates.
One of the rules of the Eastland County show is that there must be enough nuts in each entry to fill a quart fruit jar. More uniformity of exhibits may be obtained in this manner. This was found a more desirable rule than a one-pound entry requirement since quart fruit jars are more common in the home than are scales.
The judges will need a calculating machine that will add, multiply, and divide. The local bank may be the only place in a small town where such a machine can be secured. Arrangements for the use of such a machine should be made ahead of time for if the judging is done on Saturday after banking hours, the machine may not be available and a "bottleneck" develops.
Upon arrival the judges should be asked to re-enter any nuts that have been entered under the wrong variety name. Nuts of some varieties vary in appearance, color, shape, and size to the extent that some will naturally be entered incorrectly. Especially is this true if some grower has a tree that has been incorrectly named for many years. For example, if he has an Onliwon tree that he has thought to be Squirrels Delight for 20 years or if he has an Eastern Schley tree and has believed it was Western Schley he will insist that it be entered according to his classification. In addition to this, a lot of people do not know the name of their variety.
Make previous arrangements to take the judges and important guests to lunch at a specified time.