Country shows 'must live on'

November 01, 2017

Children enjoying the adrenaline rush on the cha-cha ride. Photo: Toni Harris.

Residents have been warned – support the country shows or they will disappear.

Dwindling crowd numbers over the years and aging show committees has forced country show organisers to speak out before it is too late.

The Corowa and Rutherglen shows have been running now for 139 and 129 years respectively.

Corowa Show Secretary Jan McKenna said the problem was widespread.

The Agricultural Societies Council of NSW, which is the parent body of the Agricultural Show Societies, recently conducted a survey of all agricultural shows in NSW.

Jan said the main point to come out of the survey was that volunteers across all the agricultural shows were ‘older volunteers and no one is stepping up’.

“The general consensus was that it is getting harder and harder to find people to help,” she said.

“I don’t actually find that at Corowa, I find that the ladies and that all come in the day before and do their work and go away and you don’t see them again until next year which is fine, but it’s more in the sheep (handling area) where it is very physical work that I have suddenly realised how these old guys struggle with it.”

Jan believes it is simply not good enough to have to rely on the same group of volunteers year after year, with the majority of volunteers aged between 70 and 80 years old.

“We also need some younger volunteers to learn how to run the show, it’s the only way we can guarantee our event’s longevity because the show must live on,” she said.

“They don’t have to come to meetings, just be there on the week leading up the show and on the day.”

Jan believes a public meeting could be the answer to attract volunteers, but is hoping it won’t have to come to that.

While the Rutherglen Agricultural Show enjoyed large crowd numbers last month, Show Secretary Diane O'Dwyer is hoping the support will continue in the years to come.

“We get quite good support within the pavilion and certainly from the high school in helping us to set up and everything, we could always do with more volunteers to help on show day,” she said.

“What we need are younger people to come forward to help in the planning and preparation to fulfil future roles on the committee.

“Our committee at the moment ranges from late forties to about 60 and then escalates to about 80 year olds.”

Di said organisers were trying to maintain the show with an agricultural focus.

“It’s an opportunity for the youth and the young farmers to get involved and to make sure we sustain the presentation of agriculture in the area,” she said.

“It’s about making sure this community event that has been going for 129 years continues for future generations.”

Di said crowds responded to last month’s event, which she believed was due to the nature of the attractions on offer.

“It’s important that we put things on that attract people to come and it’s that middle age group that can be the hardest, but we get the parents with the young kids and the grandparents,” she said.

“We were quite happy this year but we do need people to continue to contribute and to get involved and put forward their ideas.”

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