The organisers of agricultural shows in New South Wales were ploughing ahead to run after most pulled the pin last year due to coronavirus restrictions, but the latest lockdowns in the state have thrown plans into disarray at the last minute.
- Seven agricultural shows in NSW have pulled the pin for events in August and September
- Organisers call on the federal government to re-instate financial support after many cancel for the second year due to COVID-19
- A snap regional lockdown in the Central West and Greater Sydney restrictions fuels uncertainty
At least five shows in the Central West, where about 60,000 people are under stay-at-home orders due to a positive case of COVID-19 in the region, have been forced to cancel.
The Tullamore, Trundle, Peak Hill, Parkes and Condobolin shows which were all scheduled to take place next month have pulled the pin, after not going ahead in 2020.
The president of Parkes Show Society Peter Unger said the decision was in everyone’s best interests, not wanting to bring the virus into the community.
“We didn’t want to be responsible for that,” Mr Unger said.
“It’s a disappointment because there was definitely excitement leading into the show,” he said.
The show typically started on the last Monday of August, but that will not be the case for the second year now.
“We’ll just have to tighten the belt as best we can … some kind of government funding wouldn’t go astray at all,” he said.
Elsewhere, the Tamworth and Penrith Shows, which rely on large crowds from the Greater Sydney lockdown region will not go ahead.
Money pot runs low
Calls for government support have begun again, likely in a similar form to that provided last year, to ensure the events can continue to operate into the future.
In 2020, Parkes received $70,000 under the federal government’s ‘Supporting Agricultural Shows and Field Days program’, a one-off payment to reimburse the costs of cancelling due to coronavirus.
It was among 378 shows across the nation that received almost $34 million in the COVID-19 support payment.
Agricultural shows and field days contribute more than $1 billion to the Australian economy each year and attract about six million people to regional areas.
The president of the Agricultural Societies Council of NSW Tim Capp said while shows are resilient last year’s support package will have been exhausted and a new round should be established.
“Shows have an outgoing costs all the time so the federal government covered a lot of that for us,” Mr Capp said.
“Whether that happens again or not, we’d be very happy to put our hand up for it.”
He said history has shown just how resilient agriculture shows are, and they have weathered much more than pandemics in the several decades of operation.
Uncertainty and restrictions cloud future shows
More shows are expected to be called off in the coming weeks.
“We’ve run COVID-safe shows during Autumn but we just have to abide by the health regulations at the time, and the regulations in some areas make it impossible to hold events at all,” he said.
Several shows in the region have decided to reschedule in a bid to limit travel through regions affected by the coronavirus lockdown, including Orange, Cabonne and Blayney.
The Forbes Show, which was set to be held in September has pushed back their plans to October “when the COVID situation has hopefully settled down.”
Others, such as the Woodstock Memorial Show, are ploughing ahead with plans to run in September at this stage.
The Sydney Royal Easter Show went ahead this year but the nationals finals, to be run at Brisbane’s Ekka next month, has been postponed due to the ever-changing COVID border closures across the country.
There remains no end in sight to the lockdown in the Greater Sydney region, a significant economic driver of shows in regional New South Wales as well as interstate events.
The Australian finals would, on any normal year, bring together the best of the 580 agricultural shows across Australia.