The triumphant return of country shows proves nothing can keep a good thing down.
The global pandemic put a stop to the majority of all country shows last year and drought-hit communities, like Bourke and Cobar, have had two years with no shows.
Not having a show is a significant loss for communities, as not only do they bring substantial income to rural and regional towns, but they also bring communities and people together.
But now after drought and then COVID, country shows are well and truly back with record numbers of visitors marching through the gates all across the state to check out the best of what is on offer when it comes to fresh produce and competition.
The Bourke Show was held on Saturday, after having not run for two years.
Bourke Show President, Grace Ridge, said the show was a great success with about 1,300 visitors attending.
“It was really well supported by the community and everyone turned out to come down to the show, which was great,” Ms Ridge said.
“We didn’t have a show in 2020 because of COVID and we didn’t have one the year before that because it was too dry and we just didn’t feel like we could run one as people on the committee were feeding stock as well and it was very hard to ask people to donate to a community event when businesses were doing it so hard.”
The Bourke Show had all the events you would expect at a country show from show jumping to whip cracking and even a dog display. There was also a Young Farmers challenge that attracted high levels of interest with the night capped off with a fireworks display.
The pavilions were filled with the usual goodies on offer and included a record 1,517 entries, which was 335 more than the 2018 show. There were also 482 photography entries. Not to mention these gorgeous roses and needlework displays.
The Cobar Show is being held this weekend – May 7 and 8 – and also has a similar story to tell after not being able to run for two years due to drought and COVID.
In other parts of the state shows have been going strong – including in Goulburn where a good turnout came out to enjoy local produce and ring events with a large group of young farmers getting involved in this year’s Young Farmers Challenge.
Agricultural Societies Council of NSW, President, Tim Capp, says it is great to see the shows returning and quite telling that visitor and competitor numbers are also up on previous shows.
“All the attendances are up and people are just so pleased to be able to get out and meet some people,” Mr Capp said. “Ag shows are a typical meeting place for people, particularly country people. They are a great place to catch up and have a yarn and talk about the price of cattle and crops, among all the other things.
“Competitors are also flocking in big numbers to all the regional shows and are at least double of what they were last year, if not more. They seem to be really coming out of the woodwork.”
Mr Capp said his local show at Gresford, in the Dungog area, had a 40 per cent increase in crowd numbers compared to 2019, with the Maclean Show also running successfully despite its showground being underwater two weeks prior in the flood. The Hawkesbury Show attracted a record 70,000 visitors with queues into the carpark reported.
The Yass Show went ahead this year in a slightly modified format. It didn’t include pavilions due to COVID risk but its horse events were jam-packed with competitors.
Jill Chapman, Vice President of the Agricultural Societies Council of NSW, said her local shows at Deniliquin and Gundagai had also seen record numbers attending.
She said it is welcome after many locals had “heavy hearts” last year when show weekend came and went with no show.
But she says there is now a renewed energy and enthusiasm with crowd numbers and competitor entries all up, and in some cases doubling.
She says volunteers are crucial for show running and whilst some are still concerned for their health with COVID issues, many are now returning.
“There are only a few big community days and the local show is one of those,” Mrs Chapman said. “And this goes right across from the littlest one to the oldest. There is something for everyone.”
Please check out this guide from the Agricultural Societies Council of NSW for a full listing of upcoming shows in New South Wales.
And if you enjoyed this feature, you might like to read our story on Primex Field Days.