South Australia is home to 48 volunteer-run country shows, many of which have had to cancel since the pandemic hit.
However, South Australian Country Shows Association junior vice president Jacqueline Francis believes the state’s shows will return in full force as restrictions begin to ease.
“It’s fantastic to see that the shows aren’t just coming back, but they’re coming back stronger, which is amazing to see,” she said.
“COVID has affected the show season for three years. Some shows have had to cancel two out of their three shows.
“It’s impacting some shows due to their volunteer capacity. Working with SA Health, looking at their ground and what they can do social distancing wise, they haven’t been able to pull through the chaos and hold an event.”
So far, three out of the nine shows in SA’s autumn show season have had to cancel.
“The shows that I’ve seen [this year] that have been able to run have had great numbers because people want to get out; they want to support their community,” Francis said.
The Angaston show normally kicks off the season on the last Saturday of February, but due to delays in the Angas Recreation Park upgrades and Covid restrictions, Angaston A. H. & F. Show Society secretary Siobhan Barnden said it was not feasible to run.
“It wasn’t viable because we didn’t have the room … That was one of the main reasons to cancel for the year, but we’ll come back better and stronger,” she said.
While their 2022 show was cancelled, the Horses In Action (HIA) events still went ahead, and they held a flower and wine event for locals to enjoy.
“On the Friday night, we had a floral and wine session, where we had demonstrators showing how to display plants and flowers and then everybody was able to do their own,” Barnden said.
Already looking to next year, Barnden hopes the completed upgrades to the park will provide more space to grow their show and enable HIA to expand as well.
Mount Pleasant held its show on Saturday, March 19, with 5,200 patrons making their way through the gates over the course of the day.
Mount Pleasant A. H. & F. Society secretary Vicki Fawcett said the show went well considering it was election day and had the usual COVID concerns.
“It’s actually not far off of our good shows, it was only slightly down [in patrons], but pre-COVID, I think we sort of run on a similar basis,” Fawcett said.
“If we didn’t have a [COVID] management plan, we wouldn’t have been able to have a show. The crowds would have been too small to warrant all the work that goes with it, and we would have lost money.”
Fawcett said the pandemic has increased the show’s expenses by up to $4,000, making it tougher for them to run.
Francis, who is also junior vice president of the Mount Pleasant Show and president of the Kapunda and Light Show, said several shows are now moving away from show books to reduce costs they cannot recoup if the show is cancelled.
However, Francis, Barnden and Fawcett all believe it is important for country shows to continue going ahead as they provide the opportunity to showcase agriculture, businesses and talent across the regions.
“It gives everyone the opportunity for people to know what’s actually out here – what our area has to offer, and hopefully getting people coming this way to keep our little towns going,” Fawcett said.
Barnden said many people don’t fully appreciate the work behind and the time required to run properties and supply goods to everyone
“Having a show enables everyone to see what happens and appreciate things more,” she said.
According to Francis, country shows are for the whole community, whether you are a patron, entering an event, showcasing your skills, showing your stock, or selling your products.
“It’s really important for the whole community as a chance to showcase what they have and what they do best,” Francis said.
“Everything we have comes from our agriculture industry in some way … and an important part of country shows is showing this to the general public, especially those that may not live in the country area.
“One of my favourite [ways to describe agriculture] is you see a doctor a couple of times; you see them when you’re sick … You see a lawyer when you get married or when you do a will, but you need agriculture every single day,” she said.
Francis hopes the relaxing restrictions will provide relief for the volunteers behind the spring shows and that they can continue to showcase the incredible efforts, products and talent of SA’s country regions.
“I’d love to see all 48 shows running their events again, being part of their communities, growing and being stronger. Getting the gate numbers, getting the entries and getting the volunteers to keep moving forward,” she said.Jump to next article