Scarecrows brought in to lift spirits as COVID-19 prompts cancellation of more than half NSW agricultural shows

More than half of the annual agricultural shows in New South Wales have been cancelled this year.

In a normal year, 192 communities across the state would host the historic local events, but this year 119 shows have been cancelled to date.

The Agricultural Societies Council of NSW (ASC) president Tim Capp said planning was still underway for some shows.

“There are still a few holding out a glimmer of hope that they may still be able to run, but I must admit it’s not looking good,” he said.

On the North Coast, from Bulahdelah to the Queensland border, COVID-19 has ended the show season for the year, with show societies citing the uncertainty over lockdowns and restrictions as the key reason.

Bangalow Show president Ivan Ewert said it was a difficult decision to cancel its November show for the second consecutive year.

“It’s not what we’re there for; we’re there to run a show. We’re very disappointed, but at the same time we see it as the sensible way to go,” he said.

“We were waiting for a bit more information, hoping that our area wouldn’t be affected but as it went on it was clear that it was going to be affected.

“We couldn’t take the chance of doing all the work in the lead-up, taking entries, looking for sponsors and having to pull the pin in the last couple of weeks.”

It’s also a disappointing outcome for the Tweed River Agricultural Society, which was planning its 120th Murwillumbah Show.

Chairman Peter McDonald said the committee had decided to ‘ride it out’ until its September meeting before making the final call.

“It’s really a major event for the town; we always say we’re ‘town meets country’, where people gather and show their livestock, produce and the wares of the district,” he said.

[Murwillumbah Show]

Many shows in the north are heavily reliant on Queensland and a closed border would make it especially difficult to stage an event.

“Lots of our competitors come from there. Judges often come from Queensland. The Showmen’s Guild, our rodeo contract, and lots of other show entertainment was booked from Queensland, so the decision was taken out of our hands,” he said.

Scarecrows to lift spirits

The ASC’s No Show Scarecrow campaign in October will see the stuffed dolls displayed throughout towns.

[No Show Scarecrow]

Mr Capp said shows that cancelled in 2020 participated in the initiative to highlight their value to country communities.

“I think there’s quite a few this year that would like to do the same again, so it keeps the show movement forefront in people’s minds,” he said.

Calls for financial relief

Mr Capp said an extension of the Supporting Agricultural Shows Program for cancelled 2021 shows would be welcome.

“It would be great. We acknowledge the money we got from the federal government last year for shows that weren’t operating to pay their operating costs — even though they weren’t running a show, ” he said.

Agricultural Shows Australia confirmed it is continuing discussions with the federal government on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud could not provide an update on whether the extension will be forthcoming.

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