Seymour and Dookie Shows cancelled, but Shepparton still going ahead

By Country News

Organisers of the Shepparton Agriculture Show will go ahead with this year's event, despite uncertainty surrounding the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.

It comes as the Seymour and Dookie show societies both announced their events would not go ahead as COVID-19 restrictions were tightened again following an increase of cases in Victoria.

The Henty Field Days has also announced it will not be held this year, while Elmore Field Days president Derek Shotton said an announcement on the Elmore event would be made later this week.

It's the first time since World War II that both the Dookie and Seymour shows have been cancelled.

Dookie Agricultural and Pastoral Society president Peter Shields said green-lighting the event would put too much pressure on the volunteers at the October show.

“If we went ahead it would mean our volunteers constantly cleaning and monitoring numbers, and they wouldn't get an opportunity to enjoy the show for themselves,” he said.

But, on a positive note, Mr Shields said it gave organisers a chance to arrange an "incredible" show next year.

Seymour Agricultural and Pastoral Society made the decision to cancel the show on June 22, concluding it should not run in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Society president Jason Ronald said volunteers, who were relied on to put on the show, expressed their concern about the event going ahead.

“We want to have the show as it is important to the community and very popular,” he said.

“But it would be too costly and too difficult to put all the safeguards in place to make it happen.

“It’s a disappointing result but necessary to ensure restrictions are adhered to.”

Mr Ronald thanked the community for its support through the years and said the dates would be reserved for a possible smaller event.

Shepparton Agricultural Society president Sue Trevaskis said the committee was banking on COVID-19 restrictions being lifted by October, but added strict measures would be put in place to avoid close contact between patrons.

She said the committee was working on entry limits plus entry and exit points that would allow for more flow at the showgrounds.

Mrs Trevaskis said the committee had spoken with Greater Shepparton City Council and WorkSafe about running this year's show.

“We can cancel the show if previous restrictions are reintroduced,” she said.

Henty Machinery Field Days chief executive officer Belinda Anderson said the unclear timeline for easing restrictions made planning and organising the event too difficult for it to go ahead.

“Without a clear path to the end of this pandemic and the full easing of social restrictions, the obstacles to running a successful, and more importantly safe, field days were insurmountable,” she said.

The Henty Machinery Field Days is the nation’s largest field days and outdoor agricultural event, with an economic value of more than $92 million, and were due to be held from September 22 to 24.

“We are a national event and with state borders closed we would disappoint all our exhibitors from interstate along with the many visitors we have who attend from around the nation and overseas,” Ms Anderson said.

It was announced in April that Victoria's largest show, the Royal Melbourne Show, had been cancelled for only the third time in its 165-year history.

The financial fallout of the cancelled shows remains unclear, with the Federal Government announcing last week a $36 million package for show committees to regain lost funds.

The Supporting Agriculture Shows program will include:

● $10 million in operational support for local show societies. Shows will be able to claim up to $10 000 if their attendance last year was less than 2000, up to $15 000 if their attendance was between 2000 and 4999, and up to $70 000 if their attendance was more than 5000.

● $26 million in operational support for royal agricultural show societies, which can additionally claim for unrecoverable costs associated with preparing for the cancelled show.

● $100 000 in operational support for Agricultural Shows Australia’s Rural Ambassador program.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said agricultural shows across Australia contributed $1 billion to the economy every year.