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Drought be damned, the Queanbeyan Show must go on

Michael Weaver 7 November 2019
Show Society VP Josh Williams, Paul Nicholl from Bayldon Ag, Elwin Bell from Bell's Amusements and Show Society president Eddie Zarb

Show Society vice-president Josh Williams, Paul Nicholl from Bayldon Ag, Elwin Bell from Bell’s Amusements and Show Society president Eddie Zarb are ready for this weekend’s Queanbeyan Show. Photos: Michelle Kroll, Region Media.

The Queanbeyan-Palerang shire is in drought and less than 30 minutes from Canberra there are farmers hand-feeding cattle.

Others are finding it hard to even source food for their stock. Some have little or no internet, no water and no rain to fill the dams that are dry.

Yet, the farmers in the region will come together this weekend to showcase everything that is great about living on the land.

The Queanbeyan Show has been completely reinvigorated despite the drought and some events, like the cattle dog trials, have had to be cancelled because there are simply not enough cattle.

The Show, which has been going since 1891, is one of the few truly regional shows at one of the few showgrounds located in the heart of a city.

“The Show really does come to town here in Queanbeyan,” Queanbeyan Show Society president Eddie Zarb told Region Media.

He said the three days will give people from Canberra and the region a real country show experience where they can either pay the minimal entry fee and then spend money in sideshow alley and rides, or participate in a whole day’s worth of activities for free.

For the region’s farmers, however, the Show is a great chance to catch up.

“The Show just gives people on the land a good getaway,” Mr Zarb said. “I think with the little bit of rain we had last weekend, that people will also be a bit more relaxed and may be able to leave the farm knowing that there’s at least a little bit of moisture in the ground.”

Along with Show Society vice-president Josh Williams and the support of major sponsor Paul Nicholl from Bayldon Ag, the organisers have had to turn away traders, such has been the interest in this year’s event.

For Elwin Bell from Bell’s Amusements, the Show is the Queanbeyan family’s hometown event, where they get a chance to spruce up all the rides and add a few new ones as well.

Elwin and his family have a long and proud history in the Australian show circuit. Elwin’s grandfather, Roy Bell, started travelling the circuit in 1924 with his boxing tent. As Elwin stands with his son, he tells of passing the tradition on to the next generation.

“For us, the Queanbeyan Show is our home show. It’s one of the most important events in agriculture and we love it. We love how it showcases the farmers, which is what it’s really all about,” Mr Bell said.

Eddie Zarb said the Show has had a marked increase in growth and sponsorship, and he welcomes people to come and look at what the area has to offer.

“People will get a real insight into farm life. There’s the petting zoo, the sheepdog trials, the yard dog trials, the horse events, the goats and all the produce in the pavillions,” he said.

Josh Williams, Paul Nicholl and Eddie Zarb

Josh Williams, Paul Nicholl and Eddie Zarb check out the rides ahead of this weekend’s Queanbeyan Show.

And they’re just the free events.

There’ll also be the crocodile encounters, a strongman event, market stalls, a tractor display and plenty of live music, with headliner Shannon Noll performing on Saturday night.

While the Queanbeyan Show has strong traditions (Eddie’s parents started the animal nursery), he said the committee has kept moving forward to give the Show a new lease of life.

“This year, we’ve stepped outside the square to do a rodeo on Friday night. All the volunteers have been unbelievable, our sponsors have been fantastic and everyone is on board,” he said.

“The Show has really grown in the last few years and sponsorship is up by about 800 per cent this year.

“The Show was at a T-intersection. We could have turned left and let it peter out or you turn right and put everything into it and get it going again, and that’s what we did.”

Bayldon Ag owner Paul Nicholl said for such a small show committee, they have achieved far more than could be expected.

“There are 16 people on the committee and they are all volunteers and they run a show that’s as big as this one,” Mr Nicholl said.

“Out at Condoblin, where I’m from, they’ve got 150 members on their show society and another 100 volunteers. There they don’t even feed the stewards, but here, they make sure everyone involved gets fed and watered for the day.”

The Bayldon Ag Queanbeyan Show runs from this Friday, 8 November to Sunday, 10 November. All the details are on the Queanbeyan Show website.


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