After a tough couple of years in which visitor numbers dropped and complaints about prices and accessibility rose, the Royal Canberra Show is determined that this year will be different. As cakes, cattle and equestrians were judged at the business end on Thursday, Show CEO Athol Chalmers said he’s confident the community will respond positively.
“If the feedback is any barometer it will work well,” he says. “We’ve had a very good response to the price changes and the return of favourites like the woodchopping. I’m as confident as I can be that we’ll get good numbers through the gates and will start to rebuild the show because frankly, it has suffered a bit over the past few years.”
Major changes include the family pricing structure: children under six are free, prices above that have dropped from $18 to $12 with a further 20 per cent off if you buy online, while a family of five can expect to pay $42 if tickets are pre-purchased online.
Parking prices have been halved to $5, of which $3 will be donated to the CWA. If you’ve pre-purchased your tickets that will give you a free ride to the show on ACTION buses and there’s also a charter service operating on Friday and Saturday nights between 6 pm and midnight.
Inside the gates, there’s still a strong emphasis on agricultural production, which Athol says you’ll “see and hear and smell”, but also a new focus on agricultural technology and the return of old favourites like the woodchopping for one day only on Saturday.
Sideshow alley also fits under the “traditional attractions” banner, although Athol says there’s a fine balance in working out what needs to stay and what should evolve.
“People want value for money, and the Show has been too expensive, I’d say that myself,” Athol says. “I think they want the traditional show stuff with some additional things they don’t see at other shows. We’re bringing a new audience in through the multiculural groups who are exhibiting and we’ve significantly upgraded our local wine, beer and food offerings.
“We’ve also engaged local musicians and we’re running our own bars. So, come to the show for the afternoon, instead of going out to dinner, stay at the show with nice food, a bit of music and enjoy the evening.”
While a target for people through the gates has been set, Athol is straightforward about the need to simply meet costs and see if the new model works, before having a full year ahead to bed the changes down for next time. “This has been all a bit rushed and I’ve got a number of changes in my mind that I want to implement but this time, we just want to get through it. I’m learning a lot every day.”
“We want to make people think ‘that was good, I’m coming back to the Show now’, and tell their friends.”
Will you be going to the Canberra Show this year?