Janene Carey, Bellinger River Agricultural Society
A record-breaking number of people poured through the gates of the Bellingen Agricultural Show on the weekend of May 8-9.
Show Society President Gillian Anderson said this year’s COVID-safe requirements were also an opportunity to make the administrative side of the show more efficient by moving ticket sales and entries online.
“The online ticketing initiative had a few hiccups, but it will certainly be the way of the future,” she said. “People quickly learnt if they had their ticket, they were straight through the gate with no fuss.”
Speaking at the official opening, Gillian said the last year and a bit had been a rollercoaster ride for the Bellinger River Agricultural Society.
Preparations for the 2020 show were well advanced when coronavirus struck and the heartbreaking decision was made to cancel it.
Fortunately, grants from all levels of government and strong support from local sponsors meant finances were not badly affected, and the 2021 show was able to go ahead with new attractions as well as the old favourites.
Once inside, people found the showground abuzz with activities – from singers and dancers in the Entertainment Tent and equestrian events in the main ring through to working dog demonstrations, woodchopping, the Mongrel Dog Show, Young Farmers Challenge and the Partner Carrying Competition.
One of the new attractions in the rides section was Australia’s tallest mobile climbing wall, which proved very popular with the youngsters. Children also thronged to the dodgems, the octopus ride, the Reptile World talks, Sydney Puppet Theatre, the petting zoo and the free face painting.
As usual, the pavilions were bursting with exhibits – paintings, sculpture and photographs, farm and garden produce, arts and craft – while outside people could check out displays of vintage motor bikes and cars, an array of food stalls, and all the fun of sideshow alley.
Acclaimed Indigenous chef Clayton Donovan, the Macksville-born bush tucker champion and TV presenter, was a special guest at this year’s show.
He gave a daily cooking demonstration and hosted a lunch for 12 lucky people who won a seat at the Chef’s Table on Sunday afternoon.
The four-course meal included caviar and ceviche, kangaroo and barramundi from Humpty Doo in the Northern Territory, followed by plum cake by local chef Mitch Grady.
The Mongrel Dog Show had a novel entrant this year, a goat that had to be coaxed around the ring with a handful of hay.
Owner Terry Wilkins claimed he’d been sold a pup by someone who assured him it was a cavoodle.
Proving the promise that every dog wins a prize, the goat took the award for ‘best vegetarian’ and later had a starring role in the Young Farmers Challenge.
With his usual canny combination of spruiking the generous prize money ($400) and issuing direct invitations to likely-looking members of the audience, Terry managed to increase the crop of entrants for the farming challenge simulation course from one team to five.
Working fast despite the muddy conditions, the couples downed their Cornflakes, tidied the kitchen, negotiated the electric fence, completed the polypipe challenge, stacked the haybales and guessed the weight of the goat.
“It was wonderful to see so many families staying for the whole day, connecting with friends and family and enjoying the great vibe of the show,” Gillian said.
“Bellingen wants its show, and they came out in droves to prove it.”