Show season was disrupted this year by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions, with public gatherings, travel and, at times, funding too problematic. Police and health officials stopped some smaller shows, and crews were also caught out by the requirements for border passes.
As a result, many shows were cancelled – including the Ekka, for only the third time in its 143-year history – and the government was then forced to shift public holidays to long weekends to in an effort to boost local tourism.
Today, after consultation with local show societies and councils, the government gazetted a return to an almost normal calendar for next year, from the Stanthorpe Annual Show on January 29 to the Collinsville Annual Show on November 2.
Planning is already under way for the return of the Ekka and Queensland Show Day will be on August 9 in the south-east.
Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said the extra long weekends in 2020 were a “one-off” and show life would return to normal next year.
“This is fantastic news for local communities across Queensland and another step forward on the road to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Grace said.
George Pink, president of the Showmen’s Guild of Australasia, said the industry had survived with the help of government handouts, some workers being laid off, and banks agreeing to defer payments.
“We had the roughest year in history, I think we made more money in the war,” Pink said.
If the industry can get through Christmas – insurance is still an issue in some parts, and banks are demanding money again – then the show will go on in 2021.
“We’ll be back in full swing and doing what we have been doing for 150 years,” Pink said.
“We’re like the poor bloke on the land, we don’t know anything else to do and we wake up every day and look at the weather and we all work our own equipment because that determines whether we make a living.”
But with 40 per cent of show staff normally backpackers, Pink said the industry would have to dig deep and “the grandmothers will have to come out”.
“I’m 77 and I know I’m going to work and all my mates are going to work,” Pink said.
“We will be able to run a normal show. We want a really successful year.”
Pink said much would depend on whether show societies were confident to organise events in the COVID-19 era and meet the health regulations.
“Some of them are really scared,” Pink said.
“But we’ll be glad to see the country people out and I know they’re dying to get out.”
Pink predicted that some of the competitions, from dog shows to cake contests, would not go ahead due to the need to book expert judges well in advance.
January’s Stanthorpe Annual Show is being organised with a COVIDSafe plan, and the size of allowable outdoor unseated gatherings recently increased.
The government has cautioned, however, that any community-transmitted cases of COVID-19, threats from interstate or overseas, or flouting of health recommendations could prompt a return to 2020-level restrictions.Jump to next article