THIS weekend’s Quirindi show is an agricultural show with a modern take but with some solid foundations based on its historical roots.
Organisers have revamped the annual event in an effort to return the two-day show to its glory days when town and country joined to celebrate the deep, rich vein of pastoral and agricultural resources and give locals and visiting exhibitors an entertainment gala.
Times have changed, and not just for Quirindi, because shows have struggled now to attract not only the public and members but other locals that once produced pavilion and ring entries that were the cornerstone of the exhibitions.
Sue Willis is one of the enthusiastic and motivated locals who lined up this year to give the Quirindi event a makeover and a last-ditch attempt to bring back the crowds.
She’s the market coordinator and one of six fired-up to fit a new-look farmers’ markets into the mix, and one of about 30 on the wider show committee.
Years ago, Mrs Willis says, everyone in town and out-of-town went to their local show. Now they don’t. And young people, and kids, are particularly not coming any more.
So besides hoping sideshow alley will attract the annual daredevils, they hope to bring back other demographics as well and are promoting the fact that this year’s show celebrates the Year of the Farmer in a big way, as well as the anniversary of 50 years of Showgirl competitions.
“They are important markers and so we’ve incorporated them and using them to highlight what we have,” she said.
To do that, they’ll kick off the show with a ball tonight, another first, and while there’s three Showgirl entrants this year, it’s a fun premiere night with the winner announced at the showground tomorrow.
The entrants are Courtney Steel, Alissa Dart and Rebecca Cope.
The Year of the Farmer element sees photographic entries of life and love on the land and also a ute competition.
While it’s a new-look show in plenty of ways this time, there’s a fair bit of nostalgia concerned, too.
It will be the second to last spring show for Quirindi, even if it is a roaring success this year around. In 2014, the show will become an autumn event.
But for this next-to-last hurrah, there’s plenty of variety in what’s being dished up on the show menu.
“We have a celebrity cook-off as well as a camp oven cook-off,” Mrs Willis said.
“People are interested in watching others cook and how the result is achieved. And we’ve got a beer appreciation course too, and a home brewing competition that will hopefully appeal to males both young and old.”
One of the biggest innovations is the Piece of the Plains markets that will feature tomorrow. Digging into the riches of the foody flavours and primary produce festivals the area has been developing over the past couple of years, organisers have incorporated the farmers’ market concept and will have about 30 stalls with childrens clothes, adult clothes, handbags, leatherwork, woodwork, upholstery, cakes, plants, compost, water filters, cheeses, gourmet goodies, candles, and jewellery.
“This was to bring people together to show off their produce and talents and hopefully attract the community for a fun-filled but relaxing day out,” Mrs Willis said.
“The whole idea was to present variety, keep the community interested and promote the area.”
So that’s been the focus of a new-look committee that has delivered the schedule for this year’s show after what she calls “good discussion on what and how to attract people back to the show.”
“Sadly, like most small country show committees, the numbers have been dwindling over the years. We would like to attract younger ones onto the committee, but there has to be something there to draw them in.”
The committee, she says, was up for anything and willing to try new ideas. They took some preliminary lessons from some other small shows that have revitalised their events, like Glen Innes, where there’s been a lot of emphasis on food promotion.
The market day, then, is one such introduction, but really, a modern take on the whole old pavilion thing, but with a new shiny, younger, look.
“Absolutely. We have probably gone full circle with it,” she says.
“It is not only about what the area can produce but also about the talent of the people within. It’s a chance to promote home- grown or hand-made.”
In keeping with the foody, celebrity thing that has seen the reality television series deliver ratings and audiences, the show will see Lyn Windsor, the better half of federal MP Tony, NSW Farmers’ president Fiona Simson, and media mavens Kelly Fuller from ABC and Prime7’s ElspethTaylor.
The celebrity cook-off starts at 11am tomorrow and contestants must prepare and cook a dish of their choice on a gas barbecue. They have exactly 30 minutes. Their cooked dish is put onto a plate and judged by dietician Zoe Wilson, and Camilla Galwey, the 1967 Sydney Showgirl winner and a former Miss Quirindi Showgirl.
The “slow food” cook-off is the camp oven event, also to be held on Saturday.
It will actually see the main fire started at 5am and so far six contestants have stepped forward with a deadline of high noon to complete their recipe.
The crowds pay $5 for a taste test over lunch and the chance to vote.
Tickets for the ball are still on sale, so get out your glad rags and head to the revamped Quirindi Show.