Kiama and Albion Park are planning scaled back shows in January, with a focus on local competitors, local talents plus online events. Picture: Robert Peet

Kiama and Albion Park are planning scaled back shows in January, with a focus on local competitors, local talents plus online events. Picture: Robert Peet

Carneys cut as shows go back to grassroots

Carneys cut as Albion Park, Kiama shows to go back to grassroots in January

Community Development
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The shows must go on, but they will be vastly different and without rides and sideshow alley.

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Heading to the show next year will look vastly different to years gone by, and may be more reminiscent of traditional agricultural shows, thanks to COVID-19.

The South Coast show trail usually kicks off the summer season from January, although show societies from Camden down to Milton are scrambling to work out how to adapt.

Crochet competitions by the Country Women's Association may still be on the cards but candy and carnival rides could be pushed aside.

The group of 12 societies met earlier this month to discuss strategies to deal with crowds during a pandemic, and have until the end of September to advise the Agricultural Societies Council of NSW whether they will go ahead in 2021 or postpone.

Kiama Show Society president Neil McLaren has announced their show will go on, for the benefit of the community's wellbeing.

But their offering will be pared back to a one-day "gold coin donation" event on Saturday, January 23, focusing on the talents and skills of the local people - like wood-chopping, horse events and cattle exhibits, arts, crafts and produce.

Albion Park Show Society president Michael Arthur says they're planning for some kind of event in January, but due to COVID-19 testing at the showground is not sure where it will be. Picture: Sylvia Liber

Albion Park Show Society president Michael Arthur says they're planning for some kind of event in January, but due to COVID-19 testing at the showground is not sure where it will be. Picture: Sylvia Liber

"Our main emphasis will be going back to grassroots local stuff - local competitors, local entrants, local entertainment," Mr McLaren said. "Things could change at the last minute so we can't really over-extend ourselves."

Under current pandemic restrictions, Mr McLaren said they might be limited to 1700 patrons compared to about 8000 in previous years. This poses a serious financial challenge to the show society, but the people "need" it, according to the president.

"We think we can do this," he said. "The community needs this ... it's the opportunity for people to get together and display their talents and their produce."

Sideshow alley and rides would be out of the question, while Mr McLaren wasn't sure if the public would have the faith to step outside into a crowd.

"We've still got a lot of work to do, but that's our commitment at this point," he said.

Albion Park is set to follow suit in mid-January with plans for a modest "exhibition or demonstration-style" event, according to show society president Michael Arthur.

Their biggest logistical challenge is where to have it, as their showground is currently being used as a drive-through COVID-19 testing clinic and NSW Health has sought to keep it there for some months.

"We're going to start planning for something if we can use [the showground]," Mr Arthur said. "If not, we can do something smaller in a pavilion or hall."

The story Carneys cut as shows go back to grassroots first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.

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