ORIGINALLY a two day event given three years to prove its worth, it would have been very hard to tell whether Tamworth had a backed a winner.
More than ten years later, the Landmark Classic has earned a place as one of the pre-eminent events on the AELEC calendar, regularly drawing crowds in excess of one thousand people and seeing sales tallies sky-rocket past $7 million.
Despite crippling drought throttling most of NSW, and eastern Australia, the 2019 classic was still setting new records in the sales department.
During the nine-day event, 578 lots were sold with an average price of $14,772.
One two-year-old filly, trained in the Tamworth region, was auctioned for a national record price of $230,000.
The clearance rate was 82 per cent and the whole event grossed $7,031,500 in sales, to date.
AELEC manager Mike Rowland said the event has taken on a life of its own and had become a “must-do event” for people in the performance horse world.
This year’s edition surpassed expectations in terms of attendance and sales, but what was even more affecting, for Mr Rowland, was the general sense of optimism, despite a hellish year.
“There is a buoyancy and belief that there is a future in what they all do,” he said.
“I’m in awe of those people whose living comes from the land and livestock and continue to see the long term positives and that’s what they’re banking on now.
“Its continued growth is testament to people's resilience.”
Current Tamworth councillor and former general manager Glenn Inglis agreed AELEC had become the benchmark for other large public facilities in Tamworth.
In a sense, the success of AELEC in the last decade had been down to its imperfections, Cr Inglis said.
“In a funny way, it met no one’s individual needs perfectly,” he said.
“Everyone had to compromise a little.
“I might be a little biased, but it would seem we got it right, it’s now averaging about 292 days of usage.”
He said the intensive 18 months of planning with a special reference panel made-up of potential “user groups” helped get the mix just right.
A process which could be repeated as the council looks to get on the front foot with a new aquatic centre.
“It's the process for all large public infrastructure projects,” he said.
“That’s the thing that decides its success, if it doesn’t meet the user group needs.
“AELEC was never envisaged to make money for the council, it was seen as public infrastructure to make money for the community, they’re two different things.”
Landmark’s equine sales support Hannah Murray said this year’s event had exceeded expectations given the current economic and environmental climate in rural Australia.
She said the industry had become more “self-standing” in recent years, becoming less reliant on other business.
“Campdrafting is one of the fastest growing sports in the country and it’s one that has broadened its client base,” she said.
“We’re now seeing more people who aren’t particularly traditional.
“Where beef producers were most of the community, we’re now seeing people from all walks wanting to become part of the industry.”
Landmark are expecting the final figures to grow in coming days, so the 2019 tally could surpass last year’s gross total.
The 2018 gross total was $7.49 million, while clearance rates were slightly higher at 87 per cent.
The biggest single sale in 2018 was $130,000.