20 November 2020

Country show committees nervous to go ahead despite green light

| Hannah Sparks
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Carnival ride at Royal Canberra Show.

Country shows are set to go ahead in 2021, but organisers are concerned about how to stage them in a COVID-19-safe way. Photo: File.

Organisers of country shows in southern NSW say they have a big challenge on their hands next year.

NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro recently announced that shows can go ahead from January 2021 with up to 5000 people.

However, Goulburn Show Society president Jacki Waugh said she is worried about managing a COVID-19-safe event with that many people.

Goulburn Show Society president Jacki Waugh and rabbit steward Sebastion James opening show gates.

Goulburn Show Society president Jacki Waugh and rabbit steward Sebastion James opening show gates. Photo: File.

She is also concerned that the government will change the COVID-19 restrictions ahead of Goulburn Show on 6-7 March, 2021.

“We got excited when the government said 5000 people could be at shows and we’ve said yes to going ahead, but we will need to wait until closer to the time to see if the restrictions have changed,” said Ms Waugh.

Stunt motorbike rider Randy Ryder at Goulburn Show.

Stunt rider Randy Ryder at Goulburn Show. Photo: File.

Organisers will have to complete a COVID-19-safe event plan, ensure controlled access and limit the number of attendees depending on venue size, with one person allowed per four square metres.

Ms Waugh said she is considering spreading show events across different locations in Goulburn or across different weekends to manage the numbers.

Now the challenge is deciding when to start planning and how much energy to put into organising the show in case restrictions change.

“The problem is, if we don’t begin organising in December or January, we will only have one month to prepare in February,” said Ms Waugh.

Brodie and Jenny Smith at Yass Show.

Brodie and Jenny Smith, from Canberra, at Yass Show in 2019. Photo: Hannah Sparks.

In February 2021, Crookwell Show will be one of the first to go ahead in the NSW Southern Tablelands. New Crookwell Show Society president Ken McCallum said the committee has decided to go ahead with next year’s show, but he said it won’t be easy to organise.

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“Things look a bit more promising after John Barilaro’s announcement, but there will be a lot of work to do, which is hard when we rely on a 100 per cent volunteer workforce,” said Mr McCallum.

Yass Show Society is also waiting to make a decision at the end of November about whether its annual event will go ahead next March.

Not only will show societies struggle to find the manpower to manage the new restrictions, but some will also struggle to cover their costs due to the limits on numbers and the types of events that can go ahead.

Many will wait to see how the Sydney Royal Easter Show plans to go ahead for ideas on how to hold their shows locally.

Man sawing log in competition at country show.

Woodchopping and sawing is a popular attraction at country shows. Photo: File.

Sydney Royal Easter Show organisers say the 2021 show will take place and will run in alignment with the NSW school holiday period of 1-12 April. They say they are unsure at this stage how many exhibitors and supporters will be able to attend but are hoping for as “many as possible”.

They are also ensuring plans include flexibility for social distancing measures that may be in place next April.

“The Royal Agricultural Society is working towards the 2021 Sydney Royal Easter Show, however like any large-scale event at the moment, we still have quite a few challenges ahead of us to ensure its success,” a Sydney Royal Easter Show spokesperson told Region Media.

“At this stage, our main focus is to work through the numerous scenarios of running the show within the current government restrictions, and figuring out what that will look like for our exhibitors and guests, and ensuring we can deliver a show that does not lose the atmosphere and experience it is so well known for while keeping everyone safe.”

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After shows were cancelled in 2020, Member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman recently said it would be a boost for the region if shows can go ahead.

“Much of our region is in drought recovery for the first time in years so by holding the show once again, our farmers will have the opportunity to showcase everything from the amazing food and fibre they grow to their prize-winning bulls or family jam recipe,” she said.

“The show is one of the most important social events on our calendar and draws crowds from across the region, giving local businesses exposure and keeping money flowing through our towns. I have no doubt it will give our communities a much needed boost.

The NSW Government will be working closely with organisers and industry associations to ensure COVID-19-safe measures are in place for each show.”

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