A true country show

For more than 130 years, thousands of local residents have come together for the biggest of the Wentworth calendar, the Wentworth Show. This year is expected to be no different with preparations for the 134th annual Wentworth Show in full swing ahead of this weekend. Caitlyn Morgan chats with those involved to discuss the history of the popular event and what can be expected this year. Pictures: Carmel Zaccone

A life-long connection
PATRON of the Show Michael Keenan barely remembers a time when he wasn’t involved with the Wentworth Show.

His first memory of the country show was as a small child 75 years ago, at the time his father was heavily involved.

As a teenager he became a junior committee member before joining the general committee and later down the track he became a steward for the trade exhibition and side shows and was the show president for a number of years.

“In 75 years there has only been a few times that I have missed it,” Michael recalls.

“I strongly support the concept of the show, early days it was very much an important part of the social and activity calendar for a small town.

“Wentworth with its diverse committee and the diverse interests has been able to sustain itself and developed, and obtained a wide spread reputation for being an enjoyable and very family friendly show.”

Michael says while the focus on providing the town with a country show hasn’t shifted, committee members have continued to grow and expand what is on offer.

“The focus has been on keeping it rural, keep it a country style show and highlight the district’s produce, activities and organisations and industry, without it getting overrun by fair type of activities with lots of side show,” he says.

“While we need some side show activities particular for the young ones and keep them interested in the show but it needs to be well balanced and we have been very fortunate for the support we have had and had our shows so successful and a delightful event is quite remarkable.”

Michael says the country show has continued to be the biggest event in the Wentworth Shire.

“It really showcases agricultural activity in general and rural interests of people, there is a whole wide range of activities at the show these days,” he says.

“There is a lot of other competitions and pavilions, craft, animals, show jumping and part of the Wentworth Show has been the development of the food and wine marquee, which highlights and gives opportunity to local businesses and industry individuals to particularly showcase their wares and showcase it to the public.

“It’s a delightful social centre of the show and it helps to make and contribute towards Wentworth’s unique attributes of being a country show.”

Over the years, Michael has witnessed the event’s growth.

“It’s grown enormously and it has also widened its interest, there is a big effort that’s been made to have a wider appeal than the earlier days,” he says.

“In the earlier days it was focused entirely on rural and agriculture and horse competitions have always been part of the show.

“The facilities have improved enormously and we are quite proud of what we have as the show grounds and the quality of the grounds.”

Michael expects the event to continue to develop over the years, especially with the opening of a new Barrett Pavilion set for the 135th annual Wentworth Show.

A new attraction
THERE will be something a little different at the Wentworth Show this year.

While patrons can still expect to see the sheep dog trials, a new addition has been added to the line up.

For the first time sheep dog trials chief steward Thel O’Shea has organised a goat dog trial, which has already proved popular with entries filling up fast.

“It came about because the last few years, the dog trialing numbers have been down on historical numbers and also with the drought, sheep are particularly hard to find in good condition and the record goat prices, we thought it would be a good spectacle,” Thel says. “We have invented it up, there is no real rule book but we have a judge who has done a few goat trials in the past.”

Dogs will be required to collect three billy goats that have been dropped in the middle of the paddock and bring them toward the handler in between a marked corridor towards the casting peg.

The handler will be required to work from the marked positions and bring the goats around the casting peg and then continue through the corridor to pen the goats.

“We could see goats splitting up, going all over the shop, goats challenging dogs and dogs standing their ground, it could also be some goats taking off from the yard but by increasing the entry fee we should see is some really good dogs handle the goats really well,” Thel says. “We are all really looking forward to it and the aim is to make it a tradition of the Wentworth Show.”

While Thel says the competition is a great way to showcase what the dogs can do, there is a much more important aspect on the competition.

“It is really important that any function out in the bush, such as the Wentworth Show, gives people a chance to get away and just catch up and have a talk,” he says.

“There are huge mental health issues at the moment and with the drought everyone in town is feeling the pinch and the drought isn’t over yet, we still have a fair way to go, just by encouraging these new events and some other reason to come into the show and having a look, it’s a bit of a boost.”

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