EDITORIAL: Putting the ‘agri’ back into show culture

There appears to be a growing trend among country shows to get back to their agriculture roots.

From the Royal on down, a stronger focus on country creativity and competitiveness is what visitors are calling for.

The numbers don’t lie. At the 2017 Easter Show, Sydney Royal recorded its largest attendance since 2004 – 922,827.

Royal Agricultural Society of NSW chief executive Brock Gilmour put the success down to “bringing a fresh feel to this year’s show, a concentration on our heritage, our agricultural roots and our daily entertainment”.

There’s no denying the pull of Sideshow Alley and the ever-present showbags, particularly for those with children.

However, pitting neighbour against neighbour in the produce pavilion, and filling the arena with cattle displays and sheep shearing is where the real heart of country shows beats.

The Eurobodalla Agricultural Show (renamed from Eurobodalla District Show) is among those promoting the “country feel” being called for through plentiful visitor feedback.

Treasurer Lindsay Boyton said the event at Moruya later this month will try to get agricultural and family entertainment back into shows, which he says have become more commercial over the years.

“We have gone back to the roots of an agricultural show where people can come and display things they have made,” Mr Boyton said.

It’s unfortunate the weekend’s Pambula Show was significantly reduced due to the weather – particularly the arena events.

Then again, the pavilion was still open – and popular – and we hear the show society sandwich makers sold out. There was also a lot of money dropped on the kids’ rides, so not everything was lost, even if that money isn’t all heading back to the volunteer show society coffers.

What draws you to the local show? Are you keen on the pavilion with its jams and cakes, flower judging and arts and crafts The livestock arena with its cattle parading and sheep shearing?

Or is it the market stalls, the lights, bells and whistles of Sideshow Alley, the call of the carnies, and showbags filled with sweet treats and trinkets?

The combination of these factors undoubtedly makes for an event that appeals to all, but in what ratio?