Memories of the Show 1997 to 2017 – John Paine

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Our show is affiliated with the Queensland Chamber of Agricultural Societies, through its Central and North West sub-chamber branch. The QCAS encompasses 129 events state-wide annually. Until recently our Show was held over the traditional Queen’s Birthday weekend in June but that has been shifted . This year we show on Friday 9th and Saturday 10th of  June with Friday being a holiday in the Winton Shire.

The late Mrs. Beth Axford was the President of the Winton Show when Katrina and I initially became involved in 1997. We were particularly interested in the working horse challenge (forerunner to the Outback Legends Challenge) which had been instigated by Darryn Mitchell. Mrs. Rosie Archer was the Patron at the time and remains so to this day. Later, I served as Chief Ring Steward for several years and became the President for the first time for the 2002 show and remained so until 2005. Gordon Pitt had served as President from 1999 to 2001, John Mawhinney from 2006 to 2008 and Geoff Cox from 2009 until 2011. We operated without a president in 2012, and then I resumed the position in 2013. Secretaries who have served in that same period are the late Mr. Lou Amiet, Mrs. Samantha Paterson, Ms. Cherie Mullin, Mr. Darryl Robinson and Mrs. Jayna Carrington. Meanwhile, I can only recall two treasurers for the same period, namely Mr. Alan Paterson and Mrs. Lorraine Murphy. Embracing the extra commitment and responsibility of an executive role deserves special mention. All these people, in their own particular way, have had significant influence on the sustainability of our show. The community owes them a debt of gratitude for the contributions they have made to ensure the show goes on.

The variable climate has and always will have a major bearing on our fate. During our involvement, we’ve seen conditions being both too wet and too dry for the benefit of the show. Ever since the decision to move the show to June and consequently be a part of the northern circuit, the weather has been cooler. The brisk south-easterly, which is a given of Winton’s winter, is a regular feature of our event, ensuring patrons the opportunity to utilise their finest winter fashions. And there is usually a steady supply of blowing dust. These aspects add to the unique experience that is the most outback of shows.

During our time of involvement, the organisation has faced many challenges. Following the increase in acts of terrorism, insurance costs ballooned in the early 2000’s. Ambulance costs, too, have become a major component of our budget. We’ve been impacted by stringent liquor licensing laws at times, and by other local events running on our show date. Currently, demands have been made upon us with regard to the management of biosecurity. Perhaps the greatest threat, however, has been the decline in the population due largely to the contraction of the wool industry. Despite all these obstacles, here we are today organising the 2017 Winton Show, thanks to a generous, positive community, determined to make the most of their part of the world.

The show has always been structured in a particular way fundamentally based on the industry and culture that exists within the region. Concurrently, inspirational individuals have contributed significantly. In 2005, Craig and Judy Sanders initiated the inaugural led steer and heifer competitions. This event created huge interest across the region at the time, and remains one of our keystone attractions to this day, drawing young handlers, their families and their livestock from far afield to our show.

Douglas and Fiona Nicholson managed the show bar for the last time in 2003 .They had been doing so for seven years with supreme efficiency and good humour. As with most clubs , and the like, the bar generates significant income over the show weekend. The Nicholsons have been missed but others have taken on the role of providing the good cheer for the occasion .

While not on the program every year, we have hosted bull sales, a cattle feature show, a bullarama, quick shears, a ute muster, wild cow milking, dog jumps, horse versus motorbike barrel race and a whether trial. One year the show and the North Gregory races ran on the same day, thanks to some extraordinary planning and communications. The famous annual Winton Camel races are conducted under the Winton Show’s public liability policy as well. They occur in July, in the middle of the tourist season, and are enjoyed by many visitors and locals alike.

The Show Ball, conducted by a sub-committee, has been held lately a couple of weeks prior to the show to take a little pressure off its organizers . Usually every second year, the ball incorporates a debutante opportunity for young ladies. In so doing, the debutantes are educated for several weeks prior in etiquette and learn ballroom dances. Former resident and committee member, Ms Julie Strandquist, was a show ball stalwart for many years, and her energetic approach was of tremendous value in this regard.

In 2014, we celebrated 60 years of shows in Winton. Life Member Mrs Rosie Archer recalled being at the first and most of the subsequent events. John and Elinor East and Chick (Alan) Patterson – all life members – were on hand, regaling the younger generations with tales from the past. That show was opened by long-time trade stall exhibitor Diane Decorte (Mt Wayo Lavendar Farm) and a cake was shared by the crowd.

In 2015 and 2016, our committee was the beneficiary of considerable external funding from a number of charitable groups. Due to the ongoing drought, various groups had raised funds elsewhere in an effort to ensure that events like ours survived, until seasonal conditions improved. The Winton Drought Committee, Rotary Longreach, Suncare and the Cathedral School in Townsville very generously extended significant financial assistance to us which was greatly appreciated. In those years too, we played host to the Central and North West sub-branch general meetings and the regional finals of the Miss Showgirl judging. These occasions brought delegates of the region together to discuss the future of the movement. Each time, the successful showgirl went on to represent us at the Brisbane Exhibition.

The Winton Shire Council is to be commended for their ongoing support of the show. They’ve always been ready to make available staff, machinery and other resources that enable us to get the program through. Typically, a current councillor chairs the bi-monthly Showground Users meeting, where the various committees that utilise this facility, including ours, plan it’s maintenance and development.

The establishment of the WORC camp has been of enormous assistance to the Winton Show. Every year, the group makes itself available before, during and after the event. While ever helping hands are hard to find, their contribution will be greatly appreciated. I believe the show in turn plays an important role in helping to develop in WORC camp residents a greater sense of community.

Every year, our committee strives to bring quality professional entertainment to town as part of the  program. Perhaps the most captivating to date has been the Rooftop Express in 2015 – an extravaganza involving people, horses, cattle and dogs. Given our relative location, such entertainment comes at considerable expense, and relies on the generous patronage of our community. The tradition continues in 2017, and the Showman’s Guild will again provide the sideshow alley of rides and games, so loved by generations of our patrons. We thank them sincerely for finding room in their schedule to include us. For the last two years, we’ve sent delegates to their annual Think Tank at Yatala in south-east Queensland.

In August 2016, a group of local beef producers paddocked 111 steers at Daintree, and so began the Winton Show Society TopX Steer Trial 2016. Several weighings later, and with the benefit of excellent seasonal conditions, those cattle were sold to Teys Brothers and proceeded to Miamba Feedlot, Condamine. Teys Brothers have selflessly agreed to share the steers feeding  performance and carcass data with us.  Prizes are to be awarded, based on performance on grass, on grain and ultimately carcase quality. This venture has been enthusiastically embraced by all involved as we eagerly await the final outcomes. Considerable enquiry has been sought by neighbouring Show societies keen to conduct similar competitions.

Our regular meetings are of course where all our decisions are made and they take place every third Thursday of each calendar month at the Winton Club at 5.30 p.m.  . Said gatherings are generally a cathartic experience for all involved and I strongly encourage your participation. This arrangement has been pretty much “carved in stone” for as long as I can recall. The Annual General Meeting can prove more difficult to pin down but is scheduled for October….ish .

For a number of years now, our committee has conducted a debrief session soon after the show. We’ve found this to be a powerful strategy, whereby all stewards get a chance to express their views about the immediately past program, in order to enhance future events.

We are currently developing our website, and expect it to be operating online in time for the 2017 Show. This development will further sophisticate the management of the show and provide opportunities for promotional material. Keep an eye out for it, and be sure to include in your itinerary the Winton Show, 2017.

These are my recollections of the last 20 years.

Written: March 2017

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