Running a Honey Show

Here's an article written to help a Honey Show Secretary who was new to the job, wished to run a good show and avoid simple mistakes.


Honey Shows Made Easy


or, Organising a Local Honey Show Without Getting Stressed


The Secret is in the Preparation

A stress-free show is the result of careful planning and preparation of all the papers and equipment in advance. This can be spread over a long time and once this is done, the competitors and stewards will all know what to do without constantly referring to the Secretary, who will then be able to concentrate on sorting out the results and prizes as the Judge finishes with the classes.

In this article you will find a guide that will make the preparation easy, lists of all you may need, and descriptions of what the different people have to do on the day.


The Show Rules

You may have a set of rules from previous years, but there are often unforseen circumstances that your club may not have met before. For this reason, and so that the Judge has an easy time, it is usually best to adopt complete one or other of the two nationally recognised sets of rules, The BBKA Show Rules (as used at The Royal Show, which is the BBKA's own show) or National Honey Show Rules, to be found in every National schedule.  Of the two, the BBKA rules are probably better suited to a local show.  BBKA rules fit onto the back of a Schedule more easily, too.


A check list of jobs to do, with approximate timing

·         Discuss the show at committee to decide date, venue, and any changes from previous practice.  In some shows this is up to the Show Secretary but more often the Club Committee will expect to have the final say about new classes, alterations to rules, the date and place, etc. -a year in advance, preferably.  The Show Secretary may not go to every committee meeting, but ought automatically to be a committee member.

·         Set the Date and Venue - up to a year in advance, certainly six months or you may miss a booking.

·         Book the venue. Deposits may have to be paid for public buildings - inform the Treasurer.  It's handy to collect a list of venues with their charges, contact numbers and any problems, for easy future reference.

·         Prepare the schedule - at least three months in advance. Print sufficient copies.

·         Distribute the schedule.  This is often sent with a Newsletter, so check with its editor for dates of posting. Schedules for an open show should be sent to all previous entrants and advertised wherever suitable months in advance

·         Obtain entry labels and prize cards.  It is easy to make your own if you have a computer and printer, but easier still to order them in advance from the BBKA Sales Secretary. The little sticky entry labels are much easier bought than home made.

·         Make out competitors'  number lists for entries (see below) - before the first entries are expected. You can make up numbers as people enter but it's much easier if you have a ready-made list of random numbers to cover every possible entry for more than the expected number of entrants. That way you can hand them a list of numbers immediately and they do not have to be too exact in advance about what they are entering.

·         Print Number lists in duplicate  - a complete one for reference; a copy of each competitor's numbers to give them with their tickets.

·         Print results sheets. One master sheet with blanks for all results, for easy reference and records, and a separate small sheet for each class, to be filled in (usually by the Steward) and signed by the Judge as each class is finished.

·         Write competitors' entry labels as the entries come in.  This can be done in advance with a closing date, or, for a small show, can be done right up to the time of judging for late entries, provided all the other jobs have been done in good time.  Entry labels are often posted or may be held until the time of staging , a separate envelope being prepared for each competitor.


Helpers and stewards - Spreading the load

Who will you need?  At least two other people on the day to help set up the tables and display stands is the minimum, and also a Judge's Steward who concentrates on that job alone. There is usually some tolerant person who keeps the stands and other equipment in their garage year after year. Value this person (or your own garage may become full) and make sure they are aware of the show and not on holiday when you need the equipment.


Manning stands in public

Many Honey shows are now held in public, either as part of a bigger show or in places such as Garden Centres. These shows usually involve the sale of honey to the public and some form of exhibition to add interest for non-beekeepers.  It is best to have these extras entirely separately organised from the competition itself, with their own rota of people to man the stalls and talk to the public.  The Honey Show Secretary should not have to think about sales or answering the public's questions at any time.


The Schedule

What should a schedule contain?  Besides accurate information about where and when the show is to be held, the Judge's name, the rules, and the list of classes, it should answer questions people are likely to ask regarding delivery and collection of exhibits, the time available for staging and whether competitors stage their own exhibits.


How much use is a computer?

Preparing schedules, forms, lists and other useful documents is best done on computer, and  holding all your documents on computer makes it easy to rapidly modify old ones, and print a set for any show in the future.  However, trying to keep your records straight on the day with a computer in the show is fraught with extra difficulties and I have myself found it to be best to prepare everything in advance, leave the machine at home and take only papers and pens to the show itself.  If you are an expert you may disagree with this and I have seen results recorded and prize cards printed out during a show by use of a specially prepared programme, but this is not for everybody.

An article in BBKA News, April 2012, page 29, may help you. It describes how to use Google Forms to do your records and accept entries all on line, rather than on paper. A spreadsheet of entries can be produced automatically and may save a lot of time and effort.


Advance Notice

It is always helpful to publicise the date and venue of a show long before the schedules are sent out, to assist entrants and allow date clashes to be resolved. Put it in your newsletter as soon as you can.


Is your show Open or Closed? Who is eligible to enter?

Many shows are for members only, but some are open, for example The Royal and The National, and some have both open and members' classes, such as Shrewsbury.  Your schedule should make it entirely clear which people are eligible to enter which classes.


Equipment, A Checklist

·         Shelving for staging exhibits.  It helps if this is white plastic covered board, but if not you will also need paper or cloth to cover the shelves, and appropriate pins etc. to fix it.

·         Display equipment, such as boards to pin photos on, tables for securely supporting cakes and observation hives or other large exhibits. Look at your class list and decide what might be needed.

·         Candlesticks, spares in case entrants forget theirs. At the National they use boards fitted with pins to spike the candles, but although these make entries anonymous, they do not look as interesting as a well chosen candlestick.

·         Plates, usually paper, for all the cakes to be put on. And plastic bags big enough to cover all the cookery items.

·         The Trophies. You should think about these well in advance because they are usually scattered on people's sideboards at home and reminders to return them are a must. Hopefully they return polished but be ready to clean them up.

·         The Prize Cards. At least enough for every class to have every prize. There are usually more 1st and 2nd used than any other.  It is not very helpful to make them out in advance as they need finding in a hurry among all the others and the judge does not always award all the prizes you expect. To go with the cards you need a good pen or two and a place at a table where you can write safely and well. At some shows writing cards is one person's specialist job.


The Entry Form

This is the slip of paper the club members are supposed to return to you in good time for you to organise at leisure. They don't do this reliably.  So it is best if the slip is so simple that it can easily be read down the phone or sent in an e-mail. All it needs to be is a space for the name and a simple list of all the show class numbers, which the entrant can ring or tick. It's often better to print the entry form separately from the schedule. Never print it on the back so that the entrant loses part of the rules or schedule to send it in.


Numbering Systems

A few shows still use a competitor number or letter, which makes it hard for a judge to ignore personal bias. Finding that every class contains entry A1 which obviously came from the same place as all the other A1 entries is hard to ignore for the judge. This is one reason a random number system is preferred.

Make a form that has spaces for each class and put in numbers chosen randomly by crossing off a prepared grid. Now you will have a list, ready to hand out to entrants, that covers every possible class. Include a few spare numbers on each slip so that they are available for double entries.

It's very easy if you keep it as a computer file to reprint it in a different order another year without having to work it all out again.
For example, this might be what the first arrival (Entrant A) gets in a show with just 10 classes:-



Please keep this slip for identifying your own items at the end of the show.  Packing up takes place after trophies are presented at 4pm, Sunday

CLASS                  1        2        3      4        5        6        7       8        9       10       double entry spares

                             Lt       Md    Dk    Cr     SS    Wax   Can    CC     Ph   Comb

Entrant A       258   152   079  384  099  214   409  252  147  064     319  324  009  279 


Lists - who needs them and how to avoid problems with end-of-show collection.

Each competitor should get a copy of their own entries like the sample above. (I only put ten classes in the example but you can put more if you print landscape way) The show secretary should have a master copy with everyone's entries, which can consist simply of a complete set of the above forms.

He should also have results forms, both the slips that the steward brings from the judge after each class, and a full master list of who-won-what. The Steward only needs the result slips, one for each class.



Each class needs a title card to show competitors where to stage entries. The simplest just say "CLASS 1" . However, in a show open to the public, it's helpful to have a large display card for each class, bearing the title and number of the class, and another with some simple information that will answer the sort of questions asked commonly by competitors and the public about that class.  Some people laminate these and keep them for future display, but look ahead because the show classes may alter and numbers get changed around from year to year.


Your Own Prize Cards

Most shows use the standard prize cards produced by the BBKA, However, some like to make their own special cards dedicated to their own local show.

There are certain conventions with prize cards that can be helpful:-

Size is usually A6, a quarter of an A4 sheet.

Card colour - 1st,bright red, 2nd bright blue, 3rd yellow, 4th(=VHC) green, HC pink, C white

Apart from the title with name of society and which prize it is, centrally in large letters, leave spaces to be filled in during the show for

- Class No.      Entry No.

- Awarded to....

- Date

- Secretary's signature

- Judge's signature

Don't waste your time and card printing a card for every 1st, every 2nd, etc. because there may not be enough entries and the judge may not award every possible prize because entries don't come up to the expected standard.

The entry number space is missing on the BBKA cards in my collection but it is very useful to the stewards when they are putting the cards on display next to the relevant items on the shelf.


A Selection of Classes

Apart from the obvious  Light, Medium, Dark, Crystallised and Soft Set honey, blocks of wax, candles, cakes and polish, it's a good idea to have a few classes that are more interesting for the public to look at and involve other skills your members may possess.  Here are a few suggestions:-

Microscope Photograph;
Instructive Display;
Display mounted by more than one person, (where there are different divisions of your association in competition with each other);
A comb built and filled in the season using a new empty numbered frame bought from the show secretary at the start of the season;
A Craft item with a beekeeping connection;
A display of flowers visited by bees;  
A model connected with beekeeping (can be made from wax);
A black painted jar of honey, so that the judge has to disregard the appearance and go by taste and smell (some judges don't like this class);
Honey Wine; 
A comb showing the work of the bees (this for places where it is very difficult to keep a frame from crystallising);
Composite classes where there are three or four items chosen from a list.


Encouraging children

Children's classes should always take account of the age of the entrants, and it is usual to ask that age is written on each exhibit. Some shows set a dividing line at, say, 11 years, to give the younger ones a different topic from the older ones.  Top age is often 16, beyond which the adult classes are entered.

Suitable subjects for children include

·         a model of a bee, any size or materials

·         a poster advertising honey

·         a mobile using beekeeping subjects

·         a story featuring bees or beekeeping

·         a model with a beekeeping connection.

·         or, a model, not necessarily of a beekeeping topic, but made using beeswax among other materials.

·         a beekeeping notebook

·         a flag or banner suitable for display at a honey show.

·         photographs taken by children (hard to exclude adult assistance)


Getting a Judge

Honey shows are concentrated in a short period and judges are few in number, so book early. A full list of currently active Qualified Judges is found in each National Handbook, The BBKA handbook has the longest list but does not contain all the judges qualified in Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

Don't be shy of using Associate Judges. These have passed a strict exam and already have lots of showing experience - it's not easy to get the qualification and they are usually building up even more experience before taking the Senior Judge exam. (The system is about to change - there will be only one class of judge in future)


The Judge's Steward - an important job

The Steward should be wearing a white coat and stay with the Judge throughout the show as a personal assistant and possibly as a guard against interruptions. The Steward needs to have read and understood the schedule and rules and to be ready to find and fetch anything the judge needs, from water and refreshments to weighing machines and grading glasses. The steward usually fills in the class results sheets for the judge, asks the judge to sign them and takes them to the Secretary so the results can be processed. S/he also keeps track of progress with judging, making sure nothing is missed and helping the judge to find all the classes.

Preferably, this job is given to someone who wishes to become a judge eventually and has considerable showing experience.  If the Steward has any entries in the show he should never let the judge know this or reveal the least sign of recognising any particular exhibit. Similarly, although the Judge may talk about entries, the Steward should avoid expressing any opinion or influencing the judge's conclusions in any way.

It's not just a washing up job and can be very interesting. A steward usually learns quite a lot about showing and preparation of exhibits.


Fees and expenses

Don't forget to prime the treasurer so that the Judge is given his/her expenses before s/he has to leave.


At The End of the Show

Be alert for people who either leave their entries on the shelf or, more serious, take other people's away with them. Ideally a steward comes round with each entrant ticking off their personal list, as at the National, but this is not possible at most local shows.

Staple all the steward's result slips together and keep them as they are your primary source of reference when asked about the results.

Publish a complete set of results as soon as you can - if not at end of the show, then in the next club newsletter.

Check your prize card stock. Now is a good time to order in advance for next year - your successor in the job may bless you for doing so.

Don't get left with all those shelves to take home - be sure the right person takes them away.


Replicas, Duplicates, Certificates and Keeping Track.

Some shows give winners a little replica trophy. This is best done only when the real trophy is returned, so it is usually in retrospect.  However, giving a certificate for each trophy is cheaper, easier, and often more acceptable.  You can design a good looking certificate on your computer and make it personal to the recipient with the Chairman's signature and some words of appreciation.


Somewhere in the Secretary's file there should be a master list showing all the past winners of all the classes and trophies. It's easy to forget to update this, so do it straight away. It's also very useful when trying to track down trophies for next time.


Keep all the papers and oddments from the show together and make sure your records don't get lost. Whoever takes over when you are gone will bless you for a clean easy job. A copy of these notes or, better still, your own version of them with local variations, will also be appreciated