Next year’s Royal Canberra Show will not go-ahead for the first time since 1943 after becoming the latest casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic, a week after ACT Health had increased the number of people allowed to attend major events in the ACT.
The Show, scheduled from 26 February to 28 February next year, is one of Australia’s major shows. It is also a qualifying event for many horse events throughout the country.
The news of the Royal Canberra Show’s cancellation came as the NSW Government approved all agricultural shows in NSW with a capacity of fewer than 5000 people provided that have an appropriate COVID-safe plan.
Last week, ACT Health allowed gatherings to increase to a maximum of 500 people, while ticketed and seated events in large indoor venues can operate at 65 per cent capacity, up to 1,500 people.
Decisions have already been made to cancel, postpone or scale back a number of large Canberran events, such as the New Year’s Eve fireworks and concert.
A final checkpoint for further easing of restrictions as part of Canberra’s recovery plan is set for 12 February 2021.
Royal National Capital Agricultural Society chief executive Geoff Cannock told ABC Canberra radio the decision to cancel the show for the first time since 1942 and 1943 during World War II was bitterly disappointing.
“Even if we got the restrictions lifted, we couldn’t have gotten the horses entered into their classes, and do the necessary paperwork. What would happen is that we’d have a very ordinary show,” Mr Cannock said.
“Even if you take the farmyard nursery, which is the most popular building of the show, people might be waiting up to two or three hours to get in as we’d have to count them in and out of that building. We’ve got something like 49 buildings at Exhibition Park that we’d have to do that with.
“I think it’s only a vaccine that will allow us to hold our show again.”
Mr Cannock said they will endeavour to hold a cattle and dog show, but these events won’t be open to the general public.
He said the cancellation of the Show will have a devastating impact on the sideshow operators and businesses associated with the event.
“This is their first big show of the year and they have limited activity in December and January, and because of that, the Canberra Show pays their bills. There are some 600 people who earn a living off that one week in sideshow alley alone.
“At least with the cattle show, that’s an opportunity for those people to present their cattle stud and sell their animals and say we won a ribbon at the Canberra Show,” Mr Cannock said.
He said the Royal National Capital Agricultural Society failed to qualify for federal government assistance due to the COVID-19 pandemic as it held an event during 2020, albeit in between the summer’s bushfires and the beginning of the pandemic.
They have been able to get some financial assistance from the ACT Government to cover the rent on buildings at Exhibition Park, however, the impact of cancelling next year’s show will have a flow-on effect to other shows.
“When we run the next show, instead of having seven full-time staff, we’ll be going back to our roots and running it from scratch again. But our volunteers are resilient and we’ll do it,” Mr Cannock said.
“It’s a bitter disappointment for many people.”