The Royal Canberra Show has come and gone for the first time in two years, and organisers have hailed it a “great success”, despite a difficult start rife with delays, staffing issues and lots of mud.
Up to 40,000 people swarmed through the gates over three days between 25 and 27 February to see a six-metre long quilt, an award-winning fox terrier, four new rides including Australia’s number-one “screaming, spinning sensation”, dodgem carts that drift, a range of fruit encased in a “champion” loaf of bread, and plenty more.
“In revenue terms, it will be the best show we’ve ever had,” Royal Canberra Show CEO Geoff Cannock said.
“People are delighted. Particularly horse and dog competitors are saying that it’s great to be back.”
However, the path there was far from smooth.
COVID-19 restrictions not only curtailed plans for the two previous shows but also forced all the experienced staff to seek employment elsewhere.
“They couldn’t stay here on JobKeeper when there was no show for them to work at,” Geoff said.
He said 2022’s show was carried on the backs of volunteers, including himself.
Then there was the week leading up to the show. Organisers had to delay set up by several days, with trucks of supplies forced to bank up elsewhere after up to 1000 protestors from the ‘Freedom Convoy to Canberra’ refused to decamp from Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC).
The camp’s booking expired on Sunday, 13 February, and it wasn’t until Tuesday that police managed to clear the last remaining campers.
“In that last fortnight, we had been ordering fridges, seats, marquees and so on, and a lot of that was made very difficult because we were so distracted, having our on-site office in the middle of a protest,” Geoff said.
“This created more work and a few mistakes, but people have been very forgiving.”
A mixture of Summernats, protestors and rain had also turned the main car park into a quagmire, but they were left with no time to make the repairs.
To top it all off, there was the rain.
“Saturday was really good, but come about 7 pm at night, we had to cancel some of the arena events, such as the motorbikes because it was just too slippery,” Geoff said.
But come Sunday, the wet weather became a blessing in disguise.
“On Sunday, the weather just turned out beautifully for us. It rained overnight, which meant a lot of sport was cancelled in the ACT, there were a lot of wet backyards and people were looking for something to do. They came out in droves to the Royal Canberra Show.”
Geoff said they are delighted to have run the show and “come out with our nose in front”.
Not only was 2022 the first Royal Canberra Show in two years, it’s also the only Royal Show in Australia to have taken place in the last 12 months, as other capital cities cancelled all of theirs.
Geoff compared the Royal Show to the Olympics when it comes to the prestige of winning a medal.
“It’s about a national standard. If your horse wins at a Royal, it would be regarded as the best horse in Australia right now. If they’re a breeder, not only does that enhance their horse’s value, but it also enhances the value of any offspring.”
To make the cut for a ‘Royal Show’, Geoff said you need to have been functioning for at least 60 years, followed by approval from the respective state government and a signature from Buckingham Palace itself.
“There’d be very few opportunities for another Royal Show to start up.”
Organisers are currently setting about the enormous task of clearing and cleaning the showgrounds, but anticipate two national wine shows this year to make up for the lost 2021 vintage. These will be held in May and November.
In Sydney, Princess Anne will be opening the Royal Easter Show this year for its 200th anniversary.