Sally Scott, Lexie Young and Joan Pedley have met up most weeks for a chat and craft for the past two decades, but there’s been one thing missing from their recent regular catch ups — preparation for the Deloraine Show.
In most small Tasmanian country towns, including Deloraine in the north, agricultural shows are the heart of the community and what many residents spend months preparing for.
They are more than just showbags, dagwood dogs and the sideshow alley. In fact, many of the state’s small country shows don’t even have big adrenaline-pumping rides.
They are filled instead with animal nurseries, cow judging, horse jumping and the fiercely contested home industries competition.
Joan Pedley, 90, of Elizabeth Town, has been going to agricultural shows for more than 70 years.
“I was brought up on a farm. My father and mother went to the Deloraine Show when it first started, so I went along and I think I was 16,” Mrs Pedley said.
“I’ve always been interested in cooking and handicraft so I’ve taken part, and I’ve done lots of judging.”
Mrs Pedley, who was the Deloraine Show’s best shortbread maker for years, said last year felt different without the show to look forward to.
“I was very, very sad that last year’s show wasn’t on,” she said.
Future of Tasmania’s shows being decided
COVID-19 concerns and uncertainty cancelled almost every show on the Tasmanian circuit last year, and the committee behind the Ulverstone Show in the north-west has already cancelled its 2021 plans.
It is the first Tasmanian show committee to pull the pin so far this year.
But while uncertainty reigns and border restrictions remain, many committees and exhibitors are optimistic that shows will once again go on.
Jill Stevens, who is also from the Deloraine women’s group, said she was preparing crochet rugs to exhibit this year should her town’s show go ahead.
She said it was the comradeship of agricultural shows she loved.
“Just seeing other people’s work, you think ‘gosh, how have they done that?’,” she said.
“[They’re] a big thing for the spirit of the community because it’s something we have to think forward to and enjoy, hopefully.”
Ms Stevens said she was glad she still had the group she had caught up with every week for the past 20 years to connect with.
“We still meet, which has been very good,” she said.
Challenges facing Hobart show
Mitch Spong, from the Royal Agricultural Society of Tasmania, said planning was well underway for Hobart to celebrate its 200th agricultural show in October.
The Royal Hobart Show is the oldest agricultural show in the state, but Mr Spong said there had been two main challenges to getting the show running this year.
“One is the crowd numbers. At the moment, it’s a maximum of 5,000 people attending an outside event, unless you get approval otherwise. But really, we need 10,000 to 15,000 as a minimum to make it viable to put on each day,” Mr Spong said.
He said the other issue for committees was preparing COVID-19 plans.
“Many of the show societies around Tasmania are run by volunteers and it’s just not possible for them to commit the time if there ends up being a last-minute outbreak,” he said.
Brian Bennett, from The Royal National Agricultural and Pastoral Society of Tasmania, which runs the Royal Launceston Show, also believed crowd capacity limits for outdoor shows needed a boost for them to remain viable.
“A couple of shows are a bit nervous about it at the moment,” he said.
“The Ulverstone Show has already cancelled, which is a little bit earlier than I expected shows to [start cancelling].”
He said if shows dropped off the Tasmanian circuit it would make it harder for bigger rides and exhibits from mainland Australia to tour.
This year will be the first year the Royal Launceston Show has been held outside of Launceston. The show is scheduled to be held at Quercus Park, at Carrick, due to developments in the city.
Mergers may be inevitable
Mr Spong believed that for some small shows to remain viable, mergers may need to happen.
“Many of the shows in the north are quite close together, so unfortunately that just doesn’t make it sustainable. It’s definitely an option they’ll have to look at,” he said.
But for now, those planning to exhibit remain hopeful about the return of agricultural shows.
Lexie Young, who is a life member of the Deloraine Show Society, said there should be more exhibitors this year.
“I’m hoping so because they’ve had more time to get it ready and people have enquired,” she said.
Mrs Pedley said given her age she was not sure whether she would exhibit herself.
“I don’t think at 90 I’ll be doing much,” she said.
“If I could do something, I would probably make shortbread. I have entered shortbread in the Deloraine Show year in and year out, and was lucky enough to win most years.”
And if Mrs Pedley doesn’t enter, she will hand the baton onto her great-grandchildren.
“They put their Lego in and do some floral work and this year I think one might put some cooking in,” Mrs Pedley said.
Source: Thanks msn.com