As dark clouds hovered over the Great Yorkshire showground, many attending Yorkshire’s greatest annual get-together remained uncertain how it would turn out.

After the traditional slow crawl to the Harrogate venue from the A1(M), despite it still only being 7am, crowds are already purposefully marching from the vast car parks towards the showground.

Despite torrential overnight rain, visitors voiced relief as they realised the well-drained showground was holding up well with muddy areas few and far between.

Massed ranks of food vendors were primed for action as exhibitors, after enjoying get-togethers in the campsites, appeared to come round with the early morning air, thick with the smell of grilled bacon.

Taking refuge from intermittent rain in the Churches on Show pavilion was Canon James Allison, vicar of St John the Baptist Church in Coley, near Haifax, enthusing about mixing spirituality with creativity beside its memory pool, where visitors’ thoughts were being displayed on unfolding paper flowers.

“This is like a big village and every village has its church”, he said. “People pop in for a natter while their children play and get a chance to talk out whatever’s going on, because a lot of farmers don’t want to see a counsellor or their local vicar.

“The main thing is not to pretend you know anything about farming. I was stood next to a herd of cows which I called Freisians and the farmer said ’round here we call them black and whites’.”,

Visitors craned their necks to view the skills of farmers in the milking parlour and farriers changing horseshoes as action at the main ring continued apace with spectacularly groomed heavy horse teams and large ponies in the scurry display.

Some of the largest crowds of the day gathered to watch Paul Hannam’s quad bike stunt team perform an array of two-wheeled tricks.

While many of the poultry classes had been affected by bird flu outbreaks,  those running the pigeons contest boasted a record entry of 560, with visitors expressing astonishment at the variety of pigeons on display.

Enjoying the show’s atmosphere after winning placings with all five of her Horsehay Herd British goat entries, Jade Rhodes, from Ellesmere in Shropshire, said she had been drawn back to compete at the Harrogate-based show for 15 years despite not always coming top.

She said: “It’s one of the only shows where we all get together at night-time. There’s a real social side to it.”

Another show veteran Katie Matten, of Thirsk-based Shepherd’s Purse cheese, was among thousands of people in the show’s expansive Food Hall, stewarding the consumer’s choice dairy contest.

She said visitors’ enthusiasm for the event was growing, with queues lining up to compare locally-produced varieties such as Harrogate Blue to international favourites including Gorgonzola.

Some of those tasting joked that completing the judging, given the generous samples, was a tougher endurance challenge than the nearby one set by North Yorkshire sausage makers Heck, to hold six packs of their products in each hand aloft for as long as possible, to win a year’s supply.

Groups of young farmers cheered as one red-faced contender neared ten minutes before keeling over.

As the day drew to a close, Great Yorkshire Show regular James Clark, of York, declared the 165th running of the event as among the best he could recall despite a lack of sunshine blessing it.

“At end of the day though, it’s all about seeing folk you might not have seen for a year or two”, he said, “I couldn’t miss it”.