Widdermarkt 2019 – by Kerry Costello-Jones
Trains, planes and automobiles (but in the reverse order) is exactly how you get to Visp in Switzerland and boy it takes time. The reason for our recent travels was due to one very disgruntled 6 year old, and I quote who was “very disappointed in you as parents” for attending the Miss Visp 2019 without extending him an invitation. So in an attempt to calm the waters and restore our son’s faith in us as parents we decided (be that at the very last minute) to take Alfie on a surprise trip – which did not disappoint!
Every year at the beginning of March, the Swiss Society Oberwalliser Schwarznasenzuchtverband hosts its traditional Widdermart ram show; the outdoor event takes place on the square in front of Sepp Blatter School. Breeders from all over the region gather to participate in this prestigious annual event, each with high hopes for their individual rams and this year was no exception.
With the stage set the animals began to arrive. Following an initial assessment of each ram to check for any injuries or illnesses those declared to be in good health secured their competition entry. Throughout the morning experts graded the rams per class, awarding points for overall appearance, conformation and fleece all the while their owners waited anxiously for the final results, a time when nerves ran at their highest and the coffee-schnapps became free flowing.
Once grading was completed the public were invited to walk around and view the rams, needless to say they were all magnificent and incredibly well behaved!! Celebrations were well underway by the afternoon and crowds gathered to witness the arrival of all maximum point rams. Following a brief explanation from the judging experts outlining why the rams stood out from the others both rams and proud owners were invited to the stage and awarded their prizes. To be awarded maximum points is the absolute highest accolade breeders can achieve and judges are required to provide additional information based on the ram’s teeth, colour and wool to support their decision. This year of the 423 entries across all 10 competing classes only 33 maximum points were awarded, equating to 7% of the overall entry stock. The most maximum points were awarded in class 6B with 9 exemplary rams coming to the forefront, and the Eggel brothers from Naters-Blatten were the breeders to achieve the highest number of maximum points rams throughout the entire competition with 2 of their rams in class 2B and 1 in class 3. With all the official formalities over the celebrations continued well into the evening and consisted of a lot more singing, yodelling and schnapps!
Undoubtedly the Swiss hospitality was second to none, even the local Fire Service crew invited Alfie to help hose the ram poop from the square and ride in the cab of a road sweeper, boys and their toys! But the icing on the cake for one super excited boy who’d had the best day ever was “meeting Raymond off the television”. Two years ago we would never have thought we’d be travelling to Switzerland several times a year, meeting wonderful people and making life-long friends but the shared love of Valais has truly opened up a whole new world to us and what an exciting one it is!