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Posted: Feb 12 2018, 09:10 AM
Group: Featured Blogers
Member No.: 17
Joined: 17-January 12
Rep: 143 pts
Resurrecting the country show in a struggling town
By Kit Mochan
Photo: A small gold coin donation was all it cost for people to visit the Darkan Sheepfest. (ABC News: Kit Mocham)
Amid complaints over overpriced tickets, food and rip-off rides, Australia's agricultural shows are declining in popularity in cities but the tiny town of Darkan, around 200km south of Perth, has held its first one in over 60 years.
With gold coin donation entry at the door, free kids activities and no sideshow alley in sight, the inaugural 'Sheepfest' is a back-to-basics show with agriculture front and centre.
"That was one of our biggest things, we didn't want to have a big cost for families… they don't have to worry about spending $100 at sideshow alley, so it will be a nice day where they can just come along and experience something for not very much," event organiser Jodie King said.
"This is just a grassroots show, it probably would be very similar maybe to what it was 60 years ago really."
Despite emerging as one of the most vocal champions of the Wheatbelt town, Ms King grew up in the NSW Southern Tablelands, making the move to Western Australia after marrying a local stud stock agent.
"I'm from a small town so there's not much difference … the red dirt is a lot different," she said.
"For me it's a memory, when I grew up we visited all the agricultural shows because we showed sheep … I got to go to the small country shows right through to the Royal Easter Show.
"I'd really hate for our children to miss going to a show."
Photo: Local ladies and kids modelled wool garments in a fashion show that drew a big crowd on the day. (ABC News: Kit Mochan)
With backing from local council, sponsorship from local businesses and an army of volunteers, the small town turned around what initially was planned as a small local function into a fully fledged show in a seemingly impossible space of time.
"We had a Wheatbelt Development Commission come down for a seminar… and out of the second meeting we were given three months to organise a function of some sort for the community," West Arthur Shire deputy president Kevin King said.
"I didn't think they could pull this sort of event together in three months, which is magnificent. They've done a tremendous job.
"It seems to be the younger ones, which is good on our part because it's the next generation that's taking the lead role here and keeping the community functioning, and bringing an event to the town that we need desperately to get ourselves on the map again."
Photo: The young generation like Darkan couple Jodie and Nathan King have been the main drivers behind bringing back the show. (ABC News: Kit Mochan)
In addition to the generous contributions from local businesses to get the show off the ground, on the day Ms King said she "had goosebumps" thinking about how Darkan locals had pulled together in the lead up to the event.
"We had a waterslide that we needed water to get to because we couldn't run it across the oval, so we contacted the local water transport guy and his truck down the road, and he said 'sure Jodie, I'll be there with water', and he appeared," she said.
"His wife has also personally sat here for three days and designed our signs … she's an art teacher at the school and she sat here for hours … they're the amazing moments."
Photo: Shearing competitions ran throughout the day and proved to be popular. (ABC News: Kit Mochan)
Manning the information stand is another expatriate, Teleah Higgie, who grew up on a dairy farm in New Zealand before moving to Darkan after marrying a sheep farmer.
She estimated based on takings that around 1,000 punters had walked onto the local oval, in a town home to under 300 people, by midday on Saturday.
"We're a little bit shocked by how much we have… it's been a big turn out," she said.
"We've got over $1,000 in that, so that's quite a lot of people coming through to get that sort of money coming through our gate."
When asked when the event continued, Ms Higgie said she had high hopes.
"We want something to show how great our little town is and there hasn't been something for so long and there's been a call for it for a very long time, to have something to showcase what we are and who we are," she said.
This is a great alternative to the "Shows" held in capital cities and major country centres. These have become nothing more than commercial enterprises that have become extremely expensive for families to attend. The "show bag" industry is a classic example with these bags and their contents advertised extensively in the print media while doing nothing other than add to the financial burden endured by parents. I realise I'm showing my age, but I recall these show bags were once free sample bags.
Back to the main story. What a great initiative for a small rural town. I wish them every success in the future and hope that their venture is never spoiled by side show alley and show bags.
"A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." - Winston Churchill
Posted: Feb 12 2018, 10:52 AM
Member No.: 3
Joined: 21-July 11
Rep: 65 pts
Maybe it is because I was always a country boy, but this has far more appeal to me than going to the city shows. The one and only time I went to the Ekka was in 1966 when I was going to school in Brisbane. I have lived here at Bundy for eleven years now and not been to the show here once.
Everybody is Willing:
Some are willing to work, the rest are willing to let them!
The older I get, the better I was.
Posted: Feb 12 2018, 11:16 AM
Group: Active Member
Member No.: 48
Joined: 15-February 12
Rep: 17 pts
If you pass through Darkan stop at the roadhouse. The pies, baked in Collie, are fantastic.
Life is neither a race to the end, nor a slow ramble whose sole aim is longevity
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