After a summer of fire and smoke Canberra would rather forget, and a decade of drought farmers would rather forget, the Royal Canberra Show provided a much-needed diversion, as well as an opportunity to celebrate the best of the bush.
The three-day event unofficially began on Thursday when families, supported by community organisation Marymead, experienced the show in a sensory-friendly way, complete with animals, rides and show bags, but without the hustle of crowds and noise.
Organisers say they were very happy with attendance figures, which were up from the 2019 show, with more than 40,000 passing through the gates between Friday and Sunday.
“We were very lucky to have had perfect weather for the event which helps immensely,” Royal National Capital Agricultural Society (RNCAS) general manager Michael Kennedy said.
“Importantly, our commercial exhibitors and stallholders are really happy with the crowd numbers and did a good trade during our event.
“This is even more important, as many of those commercial exhibitors and stallholders have missed out on the trade they would have had at the 10 regional shows which have been cancelled in recent months due to the fires and weather conditions.
“So to have had a good weekend of trade at the 2020 ActewAGL Royal Canberra Show has been a big lift for those business owners and their staff,” Mr Kennedy said.
The harsh summer did have an effect on some of the exhibits, with lower numbers of fruit, vegetables and flowers exhibitors and the merino competition was cancelled.
There was good feedback on access to the Show, with a light rail stop at the entry and many show-goers opting to leave their cars at home and take advantage of free public transport.
Mr Kennedy said the Texas longhorn cattle proved a popular selfie opportunity, while visitors enjoyed the ask-a-farmer sessions with Dr Fiona Sanderson. Show favourites including the ActewAGL farmyard nursery, woodchop and milking demonstrations also drew big crowds.
Inside the main arena, spectators were wowed by the ‘The Battle For The Golden Helmet’ featuring world-class freestyle motocross stunts and V8 utes driven by some of the best drivers in the country, including Canberra locals Gary Reid and Jack McNeice.
Saturday night’s entertainment saw a spectacular fireworks display. Visitors also walked away with plenty from the pavilions, while shouldering show bags, rides and food at sideshow alley.
“It was a wonderful Show this year and there was a terrific atmosphere during the three days,” Mr Kennedy said. “It takes a small army of staff, volunteers and supporters to bring together an event of this size and we couldn’t do it without them.”
RNCAS president Rick Jones said it was important for the agricultural organisation to find ways to support communities doing it tough.
“The RNCAS is proud to have been able to support fire and drought-affected communities at the 2020 Show by facilitating donations to a number of charity organisations helping feed livestock and rebuilding efforts after natural disasters.
“The RNCAS is pleased that by all accounts the event was a big success and we will start planning straight away for the 2021 show from 26 to 28 February.
Show organisers are also working on a number of other annual events including the Canberra Region Wine Show, National Wine Show and Poultry Show.
They are adding a new event to the 2020 Canberra event calendar, with the ‘Farm and Feast CBR Festival’ showcasing local and regional fine food, local wines, beer, coffee, ideas and sustainable living. The event will be held on at Exhibition Park from 30 to 31 May.