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Barellan celebrates nation’s pioneer heritage with record crowd

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The Old Days Festival set a new single day attendance record and one of the nation’s biggest gatherings of draught animals as it roared back to life over the holiday weekend after a two-year hiatus. More than 10,000 visitors from every Australia state soaked up the sunshine at the Barellan showgrounds to enjoy, learn and experience Australia’s authentic pioneer heritage.

The most experienced teamsters in the country assembled to showcase horses, camels, bullocks, donkeys and goats al in harness and hauling wagons, ploughs, water carts, buggies, sleds, sulkies and timber jinkers.

A Festival highlight was the committee’s own original Bennett wagon loaded with hay bales and drawn by a composite team of 23 Clydesdale and Australia Draught horses.

Included in the team this year were mares with three foals, aged from two to six months old from the Larne Draught Horse Stud, Lake Cargelligo.

The huge team was expertly driven by master horseman Steve Johnson, Lake Cargelligo; Bruce Bandy, Barellan, and Aleks Berzins, Exeter, with Phillip Thomson on the brake.

Setting off around the arena, they were joined by a team of 12 camels, owned by Rodney Sansom of Port Stephens, a team of 12 bullocks owned by Ron McKinnon, Nowra, and a donkey team of eight owned by Emily Parrott, Anna Bay, NSW.

A new addition this year was the Perpetual Teamsters Trophy presented by Tim Peel, Borambola, NSW, and being a model of a Bennett wagon crafted by Allan Langfield, Wagga Wagga.

Judged by Fred Broso and Ian Dahlenburg, the trophy is awarded on a rotational basis to a different species of draught animal each year and acknowledges their contribution to the building of the nation.

Mr Peel said he had a dream of having all the different draught animals in the one area and wanted to recognise their efforts.

“Most of the big teams years ago used the Bennett wagon for carting wheat and wool, and this trophy was judged on horses, harness and vehicles being turned out in the traditional ways they were worked in Australia,” he said.

“The draught animals that worked the teams years ago, whether it was a big horse, bullock or camel team all the way down to the donkeys and goat teams deserve the recognition for the work they put into building Australia.”

This year the category was the Clydesdale and fittingly the award went to Bruce Bandy for his Clydesdale team and wagon pulling a train of Furphy water carts.

The Good Old Days Festival was officially opened on Saturday by Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience, Minister for Flood Recovery and Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke.

The opening paid tribute to the 130th anniversary of the Australia Light Horse Troop and included Riverina Light Horse Troop member Keith Sheather mounted on Waler, Deets, flanked by members of the NSW Mounted Police unit.

Visitors enjoyed a plethora of pioneering skills, including horse drawn chaff cutting, rope making, milking goats from Yeoval Central School, butter churning, blade shearing, a whip cracking display by Stewart Bryant, Mansfield, bush poetry, a working dog display by Murray Wilkinson, blacksmithing and hot shoeing Clydesdales, Australian Light Horse display and musical ride, ploughing, obstacle course, log snigging, Furphy barrelling at the Barellan Furphy Festival and a camp oven meal under the stars with entertainment by The Bushwackers.

Popular new events for this year were Meet the Teamster with draught horse breeder Steve Johnson, and bullocky Ron McKinnon, and a falconry display of native and exotic birds from animal trainer Ravi Wasa of Feathered Friends.

The record breaking crowd on day one ate their way through 70 dozen pies, 1800 scones cooked in wood fired ovens, and drank the bar dry of Moscato wine.

Competitors in the single furrow ploughing competition on Sunday vied for the inaugural Norma Zingel Memorial Trophy, presented in honour of late Barellan Working Clydesdales secretary Normal Zingel.

Under judge John Marshall of Dubbo many former Golden Plough Trophy winners and their horses battled it out alongside camel and bullock teams.

Alecks Berzins, Marlie Draught Horse Stud, Exeter, won the event with his grey four-year-old geldings Zooka and Zappo.

In second place was Darren Gavin, Caloola, with Gracie and Major, and a past Golden Plough winner Jason Gavenlock, Cowra, was third with Australian Draught Horses Wally and Jigsaw.

Also lining up for the event was Chris Chapman, Daytime Park stud, Blayney, with Bob and Sarge, a past Golden Plough winner returning to the sport after a 10-year break.

In the log snigging contest, Melinda Gavin, Caloola, was first, second was Jason Gavenlock with Jigsaw and third was Darren Gavin with Major.

Darren Gavin backed up to win the new event for this year, the obstacle course, with Major, Jason Gavenlock was second with Jiggy and Darren was third with Gracie.

In the ring events, the champion overall show/delivery turnout was won by McKeon and Blakely, Southern Cross Shires and Percherons under judge Mike Keogh.

The hotly contested open men’s sheaf toss resulted in records bro-ken with Jamberoo excavator operator Gavin Richardson throwing 41 feet (12.4m), smashing the previous record of 32 feet (9.7m) to take the title on the first day.

The lady’s winner was Bonnie Newton, Myrtleford, throwing 17 feet (5.1m) while the junior male’s category was back-to-back wins for Lachy Rice, 14, of Canowindra. Jim Forbes threw 36 feet (10.9m) on day two to take out the open men.

On day two, Chloe Cochrane, 13, Nowra, won the junior female category with a throw of 17 feet (5.1m) and Lachy Rice backed up to win the junior male with a throw of 32 feet (9.7m) Barellan Working Clydesdales secretary Fiona Kibble said it was wonderful for the event to be such a huge success after two years of stop-start planning due to Covid.

Ms Kibble said around 400 caravanners and campers made the festival their destination and a successful addition this year were glamping packages.

The camp oven dinner served over 650 people on Saturday night and had been sold out since July.

“The committee was blown away by the response from the general public to the event with people travelling from all corners of Australia, and represents a huge economic injection for our small town and regional economy.

“The festival is put on by a small band of committed volunteers and we thank all visitors who put their hand up to help, our sponsors for this year, exhibitors plus the NSW Government for funding allowing the event to grow.

“Once again making the event a unique experience for all were the teamsters and their horses, bullock, camel, donkey and goat teams travelling from all points of the compass.”

See all the pictures in the issue.

Narrandera Argus 6 October 2022

This article appeared in the Narrandera Argus, 6 October 2022.

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