Producers hoping to show off two years of work have been left devastated after organisers of Brisbane’s huge agricultural show cancelled the event with just days to go.
- The Brisbane agricultural extravaganza Ekka is cancelled for the second year running
- Organisers had no choice as the Delta variant continues to worry health authorities in Queensland
- Producers had been hoping to showcase two years of hard work
Ekka, which was to be held this weekend at the Brisbane Showgrounds, has been cancelled for the second year in a row due to the growing Delta outbreak in south-east Queensland.
South-east Queensland’s lockdown has been extended until 4:00pm on Sunday as authorities try to contain the Delta outbreak with 13 new locally acquired cases today.
The RNA said it was working to arrange additional or alternative events in the coming months for the competitors and exhibitors slated to compete.
The state recorded 15 new cases of COVID-19 in total, two of which were overseas acquired and detected on a bulk carrier off the Queensland coast.
Hodgson Vale Dairy exhibitor Waylon Barron was all set and ready to head down for the show on Thursday, excited to return after missing out last year.
“We’re only a few days out, all the hard work was done, we’ve fed all the cows up and they’re in form,” he said.
He said it was a disappointing result after all his hard work, but the health risk was too great.
“It’s a bit of a two way street, you’d be disappointed because of all the effort you’d put in but nothing would be worse than getting in there and not being able to come home.
He’s one of the many producers on the Darling Downs who will lose income and networking opportunities.
“Well there’d be a bit of financial loss cause you wont be able to promote calves or bulls out of it,” he said.
“I guess it’s business as usual.
“We’re farmers so if we’re not showing we’ve still got work to do.”
Ekka is run by the Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland (RNA).
It is Brisbane’s most popular event of any sort, with around 400,000 visitors attending the show in recent years.
What will it mean?
The organising committee is meeting to work out exactly what some cancellations mean as some components of the show were already planned to be done remotely, or outside Brisbane.
In the latest update, the RNA announced the cancellation of the Stud Beef Competition this morning.
Some cattle had already arrived at the Showgrounds on Friday, for judging to commence tomorrow.
“The RNA will always act in the best interests of the public health and it has made this decision to cancel the Stud Beef Show to protect our exhibitors and the broader community,” RNA CEO Brendan Christou said.
The Led Steer Carcass and Prime cattle which were scheduled to be held offsite in the Scenic Rim were still planned to go ahead. It is unknown at this stage whether they will or not.
Chief Beef Steward Gary Noller told Queensland ABC’s Queensland Country Hour it looked like Prime Cattle and Steer carcass competitions could continue out of Nolan’s meatworks in Gympie and Silverdale saleyards respectively.
“At this stage we will intend to run this competition (prime cattle) on Wednesday with the cattle coming tomorrow,” he said.
“To be waiting longer may put them out of speck which costs them money but by running competitions we still will be able to announce a result and any accolade will help them with sales.”
Mr Noller said the situation was changing and the committee would need to review this afternoon what can happen under health directions, before contacting exhibitors.
A glimmer of hope
There is hope that certain events, such as showgirl competitions, could be postponed instead of completely cancelled.
Darling Downs Showgirl Paige Caldwell had been ready to compete in the state titles in Brisbane on Tuesday, but her event was the first to be postponed.
Some of the girls had already travelled down from rural communities and are now stuck in lockdown.
“It’s pretty heartbreaking. I’d spent a lot of time and money in preparation getting to the Ekka,” Ms Caldwell said.
She was hopeful other events might be postponed to a later date alongside hers.
“We were told that if other events are postponed, they will try and hold them all together if the Ekka doesn’t go ahead.”
Mr Christou said the RNA was shattered by the cancellation but fully supported the decision.
“Obviously it’s devastating that the Ekka can’t run this year, but the current outbreak from COVID-19 means we cannot bring the city and country together again safely,” he said.
The RNA will endeavour to see if there are parts of the Ekka that could be completed in the next few weeks.
“Thousands of exhibitors who have spent months preparing their entries for the competition will be extremely disappointed they cannot showcase their efforts at the 2021 show,” Mr Christou said.
Approximately 60,000 tickets to this year’s event were sold and the cancellations could cripple businesses behind the show’s amusements.
“Our hearts go out to the hundreds of businesses whose livelihoods rely on an event like the Ekka,” Mr Christou said.
“The ride operators, the showbag operators, retail and food vendors, and the many small businesses impacted — they are facing another financial blow.”
Refunds for saddened punters
Ticketholders like Brisbane resident Narelle Jensen, who was excited to head to the show and watch the sheepdog trials with her husband and daughter, will receive refunds.
“It was certainly a highlight for us and often we’d go just for that, but … not this year or last year, but hopefully sometime, so this family tradition would resume,” she said.
Mr Christou said organisers would start planning next year’s event.
“We thank the Queensland public for their incredible support of the state’s biggest and most loved event,” he said.