Country shows in Cooma, Crookwell and Boorowa are the latest casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic, with organisers citing concerns about community transmission and a shortage of volunteers.
The NSW Government’s November 2020 announcement that shows could go ahead with up to 5000 people from January 2021 had given many organisers hope.
However, about 35 shows – including those in Braidwood, Berry and Gunning – have already been cancelled and two postponed, Agricultural Societies Council of NSW president Tim Capp said.
Boorowa Show Society president Louise Baer said it is with “great regret” that the committee decided, on Tuesday, 19 January, to cancel the show in its usual format.
Some sections of the show – including cattle, sheep, dog and alpaca competitions – will go ahead, but without the general public.
“To date, the committee had planned many aspects of our show in a short time frame, with modifications and new concepts to best manage the strict regulations with which we have to comply,” said Ms Baer.
“Unfortunately, the difficulties of finding a large number of committed volunteers to comply with the restrictions, and their concerns if any breach were to occur, became insurmountable for our committee and the volunteers.”
Crookwell AP&H Society president Ken McCallum said its main concern was the “safety and wellbeing of local residents”.
“The show always attracts people from all areas, near and far, which we perceive to be untenable in this current climate,” he said.
“We hope to stage a series of smaller agriculture-based events between now and Christmas in a reduced format to fill the gap in our show calendar.”
For the Cooma Show Committee, the cause for cancellation was a culmination of ongoing renovations at Cooma Multifunction Centre, plus the impact of COVID-19, bushfires and drought.
Cooma will instead hold other events in association with local schools and groups throughout the year.
“It was not an easy decision to make, and the committee is deeply saddened by this,” said a statement from Cooma Show Committee. “We understand this will disappoint many of our sponsors, exhibitors, competitors, the wider community and our volunteers.”
Bucking the trend, the Eurobodalla Agricultural Show held a successful event in Moruya on 23 January.
Eurobodalla District Show Society treasurer Lindsay Boyton said there were about 500 to 600 attendees.
“We made sure we had marshalls on the gate and patrolling the show, hired professional cleaners to clean facilities four times during the day, and announced social distancing and hygiene reminders regularly on the PA system,” he said.
“It was extra work but worth it in the end. We had so many people say they were glad we put it on.”
Community donations at the gate and funds raised via a raffle and the canteen meant the Eurobodalla Show could still cover its $5000 insurance, despite lower numbers than usual.
Mr Boyton said even Dalgety Show organisers had attended Eurobodalla Show to see how the COVID-19-safe event was run, and they are now considering going ahead.
Goulburn, Yass and Bega shows are also intending to run, however they will look a little different this year.
Bega has downsized its events and will therefore open for free, while Yass has scaled down from a two-day event to one day with a stronger focus on flowers, fruit, vegetables, and art and craft, as opposed to large-scale entertainment.
Goulburn will still have a weekend show, but with smaller events including market stalls, vintage machinery and dog jumping.