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30 November, 2020

Local shows set to forge ahead in 2021

AGRICULTURAL shows are the lifeblood of rural communities and during this year’s coronavirus pandemic, due to social distancing restrictions, most Queensland’s shows were unable to go ahead.

By Candyce Grew RURAL LEADER EDITOR

AGRICULTURAL shows are the lifeblood of rural communities and during this year’s coronavirus pandemic, due to social distancing restrictions, most Queensland’s shows were unable to go ahead.

General manager of the Queensland Chamber of Agricultural Societies, Trevor Beckingham OAM, said in most cases, the local show was the biggest and oldest event in rural communities.

“Shows provide the opportunity for a break from the routine – we’ve suffered drought, fire and floods in recent years – and the show gives people the chance to get away,” Mr Beckingham said.

“At the Dairy Showcase in Gatton last year I spoke to farmers who said they had made the conscious decision to get away from the farm for a few days to enjoy themselves, to get the strength to go back and solider on. For a lot of exhibitors, it is their only annual holiday.

“It is also the economic impact – it has flow on effects to employment – for a small place like Alpha, the local show draws people into the community who spend money.”

Mr Beckingham said local show societies had also suffered financially, with one show in Central Queensland losing $105,000, when they were forced to cancel their event two weeks before it was scheduled to go ahead.

While there is financial support through grants via the Federal Government, Mr Beckingham said councils across the state were also supporting shows with additional resources.

“Out in western Queensland in places like Quilpie and Dirranbandi – to have the show pulled from under them there’s certainly been some irrecoverable costs they won’t get back,” he said.

“And there is still that element of uncertainty – we are not underplaying that – although at this point in time we’ve not heard of any shows that won’t be going ahead next year – in saying that they may be slightly modified.”

As only 13 out of 128 shows in Queensland were able to go ahead this year, Mr Beckingham said they were currently working through a COVID-safe industry plan for 2021.

“We are working with Queensland Health to get a roadmap to give our shows some semblance of normality,” he said.

“I think we are on about version 10… this is the frustration; they are making us jump through hoops that footballers didn’t have to.

“What they don’t realise is that local shows contribute $141 million to the state.

“It is the life-saving rope that brings in external funding – some of the towns are still reeling from this year.”

Mr Beckingham said the first cab off the rank would be the Stanthorpe Agricultural Show held on January 29-31.

“It’s all systems go and everything as per normal, as far as I am aware, they have not had to cancel any regular events,” Mr Beckingham said.

Mr Beckingham explained coronavirus had provided local show societies with a need to re-engage with their communities.

“Shows are looking at more creative and innovative ways to deliver their events and there’s already been some great virtual show events.”

Fresh off a Zoom meeting with the International Association for Fairs and Expositions – an American based organisation with world-wide membership – Mr Beckingham said shows across the world were facing the same issues as us in Queensland.

“I travelled halfway around the world last year to attend a conference with 3,500 people in San Antonio and we discussed the same issues,” he said.

“They are working on a way to bust the show flu – like our Ekka flu – and are trying to prove there would be no increase in COVID load by holding a local show.

“We are able to take away lots of ideas on how they run their shows and they also take ideas from us.

“They run competitions, including a Best in Show and Australia has been pretty significant in the winnings in recent years.”

Next year Queensland shows will embrace an American idea on social distancing – “don’t hog the space”.

“We realise hogs are American, but it will be two pigs,” he joked.

 


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