Manilla Show Society fear viaduct could derail event's future

GOING STRONG: Manilla Show Society committee members Rose Gee, Jim Maxwell and LouEllen Overton have concerns about the show going forward. Photo: Peter Hardin 190317PHA113
GOING STRONG: Manilla Show Society committee members Rose Gee, Jim Maxwell and LouEllen Overton have concerns about the show going forward. Photo: Peter Hardin 190317PHA113

THERE is a cloud hanging over a small town’s show and it threatens to derail the future of the event, organisers say.

Manilla has been battling to save the historic rail viaduct which runs through the town’s showground, but the management of the structure, which has been deemed unsafe, could spell disaster for the show’s future.

The viaduct has been fenced-off by John Holland Rail which means “prime trader spaces have been taken-up” and access has been limited.

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Show president and Tamworth councillor Jim Maxwell has been in talks with John Holland in a bid to create more space near the viaducts.

Cr Maxwell feared a poor experience in Manilla could mean vendors wouldn’t return to the show in the future.

He wants vehicles to be allowed access under the viaduct.

“I don’t think it would inflict a huge amount on this show, but if the traders are upset, they could just say ‘we won’t go back to Manilla’,” Cr Maxwell told The Leader.

Show societies all over the state are very fragile at the moment.

Manilla Show president Jim Maxwell

“Show societies all over the state are very fragile at the moment and it doesn’t take much to bump them over the edge,” he said.

“It’s a focal point of the year for a lot of people [in Manilla], not everyone.”

Secretary-treasurer LouEllen Overton said the show had actually grown in the last year, which “was unusual in show culture at the moment”, with an outpouring of sponsorship support from the community.

“A gauge of success for a show could be the roll-up from the showmen’s guild and trader-space,” Mrs Overton said.

She said the society made a concerted effort to keep the event from becoming “staid” and avoid locals getting blazé.

Fireworks will return and new events such as jousting and wife-carrying will feature for the first time.

The addition of fresh attractions in 2018 wasn’t at the expense of the popular showgirl competition which has been shelved this year.

Mrs Overton said it was a logistical and timing issue with a lot of women in the eligible age group “away at uni”.

She said the society would work towards running the competition during the Christmas break.

The future of the viaduct remains unclear with Transport for NSW vowing to meet with stakeholders before making a call.

A spokesperson for John Holland Rail said it was working with council and the show society on the current imbroglio.

“John Holland Rail is working with Tamworth Regional Council and show organisers to establish access for pedestrians and vehicles under the viaduct within the Showground,” he said.

“We intend to erect scaffolding on the viaduct prior to the show to enable this access. 

“Some temporary fencing may remain in place for public safety. “There are several options for the future of the viaduct and we continue to work closely with Transport for NSW and stakeholders to determine the best outcome.”