9 March 2023

When it comes to helping out, Yass volunteers best in show

| Sally Hopman
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Elderly couple

Former Yass Show Society stalwarts Don and Marj Payne were great supporters of the annual show. Photo: Barry O’Mara.

Country show volunteers don’t spend their weekends leading up to the show cleaning up the shearing shed, repainting the fruit and veg display areas or making sure the glass in the cake cabinets sparkles because they have to.

They do it because they can, and usually, because their parents did it – and because that’s what living in a small rural community is all about.

Like Yass. With the 160th show scheduled for Saturday 18 March, the town’s historic showground is a hive of activity now, with the show committee led by president Anne Hazell, and senior vice president Rob McAuliffe.

But it wouldn’t have lasted all these years had it not been for names such as Comins, Glover, Buckmaster, Shannon, Boutcher, Cox, Thompson, Ticehurst, Southwell and Walker.

There’s also another name that can be added to the list – Don Payne, a former president and vice president of the Yass Show Society as well as a longtime volunteer.

Mr Payne, who died last year, was honoured when the showground shearing shed was named in his honour.

Mr Payne was asked to oversee the work to make the former cattle shed into a shearing shed in 1992 and it was ready for the 1994 show.

“He pretty much built that shed himself,” his son-in-law, Barry O’Mara, said. “So it was wonderful for the show society to honour him this way.”

Mr O’Mara, who married Mr Payne’s daughter Yvonne, said the born and bred Yass fine wool farmer had been like a father to him ever since Barry’s father died when he was only 16.

Shearing shed sign

The Yass Show Society’s Shearing Shed has been named in honour of former stalwart Don Payne. Photo: Barry O’Mara.

“When I met Yvonne, he became like a dad to me. He taught me all the things that a dad teaches a son. He was such an easygoing sort of bloke. A farmer all his life on the Black Range Road, I can’t remember ever hearing him swear.”

When Barry and Yvonne married, they lived at the family farm Sunnyside, which, at the time, was about 800 hectares.

“Don was certainly instrumental in that part of my life,” Barry said. “He did so much community work. Not just at the show, but he founded the Apex Club here and helped set up the Yass ambulance station.

“He steered me into the community work that Yvonne and I do now and he shaped the way we brought our kids up too, ” Barry, Yass’s 2023 Citizen of the Year, said.

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“He was a good bloke, a pretty independent sort of bloke. He’d sometimes let me hand tools to him when he was working up there, but that was about it.

“But I remember he spent a lot of time up at the showground – he nearly got a divorce because he was up there so much.”

He was president from 1976 to 1977 but was involved with the show for much of his life in other capacities.

Barry said his father-in-law looked to his grandchildren to keep him going when his beloved wife Marj died about 10 years ago.

Three people cleaning up

Belinda Reynolds from the Yass Pony Club, life member Graham Robertson and Yass Show President Anne Hazell led the working bee in preparation for the 2023 Yass Show. Photo: Yass Show Society.

“He’d do things like not collect the eggs until after Thursdays so there’d always be some eggs for the grandkids to collect when they came at the weekend. Or he’d grow pumpkins and marrows in the garden because he knew the kids liked them.”

Don Payne died not long after his 90th birthdy in May, 2022. His funeral at St Clement’s Anglican Church, Yass was told: “Gone to heaven to teach them how to farm.”

President of the Yass Show Society, Anne Hazell, said show stalwarts like Don Payne helped keep the event going.

Although reduced to a one-day show in the wake of COVID-19, Ms Hazell said agricultural shows still played an important part in bringing city and country together.

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“We’re well on the way back now after COVID,” she said. “The shearing competition is back which is great news and we’re hoping for a great rollout in the horse events and pavilions.

“We’re also expecting a big crowd for the kids’ activities – we spent last weekend wrapping about 400 prizes for them going on how successful it was last year when we were crushed.” This was due in part, apparently, to the introduction of a rubber chicken throwing competition.

Due to space issues, there won’t be a sideshow alley this year, but there will be showbags, along with a vintage car display, petting paddock, woodchop, emergency vehicle display and lots of other activities for all the family.

“It’s definitely the place for a good old-fashioned country show,” she said. “It’s been great to get some new volunteers, we’ve had a few more people step up which is great.”

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