By ERWIN CHLANDA
A local solar technology company, Ogden Power, got blue ribbons for the Best Trade Commercial Stand and Best Outdoor Stand at the Alice Springs Show today.
The company trades in complete solar systems and its owners, Renee and Rede Ogden, don’t just talk the talk: Their house is fully powered from the sun, and their car is a Nissan Leaf, which runs on batteries that are mostly charged from a photo-voltaic plant.
Meanwhile the cattle industry continued its bull run with massively higher prices achieved in this morning’s Show auction.
The 42 bulls achieved an average price of $4321.43. The top price was $6500 for each of two Droughtmasters, just 14 months old, sold together to Hayes Brothers Holding of The Gardens station, north-east of Alice Springs.
The vendors in this record $13,000 deal were M & S Bekker, from Gympie, Queensland.
Several of the bulls sold for $6000.
The top price last year was $5500, and the average, about $3300. Today’s result was was a jump of about 25%.
The sale total today was $181,500.
Cattle breeders were not the only ones with a smile on their face: Stall holders traveling from show to show had their best trading day yesterday, according to Show Society president Rosie Gibbins.
She says word of mouth will get around “about how good the Alice Springs Show is” and this will entice more show traders “to come all this way” for future shows.
This year the Alice show was not the first one in the NT circuit: Borroloola has started one, “just one lady organises it all,” says Ms Gibbins, and Fred’s Pass has already been.
In Alice there were 250 trade stands, 15% up on last year, but down a little on the long-term average of 280.
Local business and government stall holders were in about equal numbers, although government numbers were down as several instrumentalities combined in single stalls.
But what counts most in a local show are the entries from private exhibitors, in sections from agriculture, art, cooking, craft, dogs, hobbies, horses, horticulture, photography, poultry and riding for the disabled.
There were close to 3000, bettering last year’s 2800.
Agriculture steward Geoff Miers says he’s had 230 entries.
Janet Chisholm won the aggregate award for citrus (pictured with Mr Miers, below right) – all grown on her family’s cattle station, 180 km north-west of Alice Springs.
“This collection is very well presented. She has taken time to select quality produce, no blemishes, no pests, and she’s given it all an extra polish to make it look fantastic. Some of these trees are 50 to 60 years old,” says Mr Miers.
“Citrus has been very good this year. Entries from juniors have been good. We’re down in Asian greens, which is unusual, and the pumpkin section has been down a little bit as well.
“Next year I would like a few more collections, the larger, impressive collections.”
The show is yet another fixture almost entirely run by volunteers.
The stewards of each of the 14 sections attract their own helpers, usually four or five, adding up to around 120 people.
Then there are the St Vincent de Paul workers, about 50, looking after the gates, in shifts over the two days.
The NT Government this year gave the Alice Springs Show Society a grant of $200,000 to be spent over three years on infrastructure yet to be selected. There was no NT Government funding in 2014.
In 2013 the society received $35,000 – the final allocation of a five year schedule.
It costs the society, which is a not-for-profit organisation, about $400,000 to stage the event, says Ms Gibbins.
The committee members are all unpaid volunteers but the budget needs to cover two full-time staff, plus one casual. Contributions to the upkeep of the Blatherskite Park and Power and Water utilities are further costs.
The income comes from gate takings, stall holders’ site fees and the Showmen’s Guild, for the amusement park – the kid’s favourite part of the show.
The agreement with the guild is “obviously confidential,” says Ms Gibbins. The final crowd figure will become available tonight. (We will publish an update.)
Gate takings and site fees – in about equal measure – make up the majority of the income, says Ms Gibbins.
What changes are likely next year? No substantial ones, she says.
Some show goers complain about not getting pass-outs if they wish to come and go, including just to their cars parked outside the grounds.
To ameliorate this a trial of a cloak room, where people can leave the things from their car – also managed by Vinnies – is under evaluation after running it this year and last.
“The show follows a very good formula. We always try to work out what’s gone well and welcome feedback. But we’re very open to people floating ideas,” says Ms Gibbins.
The flying pigs and, this year, the sand sculptures were popular. Much depends on funding and “we were very limited last year. We need about $80,000 to open the gates. If we don’t make that the year before we’re on pretty thin ice.”
Meanwhile, Mr Ogden says since 2006 his firm has sold and installed more than 500 PV systems in The Centre, including remote off-grid installations.
Mr Ogden says prices had dropped a lot until the decrease of the Australian dollar, but suppliers have held their sale prices.
Getting a family house of four connected to the grid costs around $12,000 – after subsidies. This is “grid interactive”, not using batteries. The sale price for energy is one for one – the amount you receive for the power you feed into the grid is what you pay for what you draw out.
However, Mr Ogden says the future of these deals is unclear: Power companies in some southern states “charge you up to 40c per kWh and pay you six cents for what you sell to them.
“This is why batteries are so important.”
Huge producers are emerging in Asia and the US, “hopefully” making batteries cheaper and with a larger capacity.
He estimates that home made stored energy will be cheaper than the bought variety within five years.
Mr and Mrs Ogden have been driving their solar car around town for two years. It has a range of 150 kms and is programmed to an amazing top speed of 160 km/h. The sizable five-seater hatchback cost $40,000 two years ago.
While there are quite a few hybrid (petrol and solar) cars in Alice Springs, absurdly fully electric ones are not sold here.
However, servicing is not a worry as apart from suspension, brakes and bearings, there’s no servicing needed, says Mr Ogden.
PHOTOS (from top): Bos Park Govenor fetched $6000 at the Show Bull Sale this morning. He is led by Grace Bekker • Renee and Rede Ogden in their prize winning show stall, with their fully electric car • Show Girl Tara Poulton with runner-up Emma Fraser (left) • Bos Park Homitzer and Bos Park Hawthorn after a hectic day at the office. They were knocked own for $13,000 to the owners of The Garden station • Show steward Geoff Miers with fruit that won a blue ribbon • Pam Collier and seven mates had a ball knitting these sheep – they, too, scored a first prize • A volunteer from St Vincent de Paul, Stefania Mingozzi, at a gate, rugged up against the minus one degree temperature this morning.
UPDATE July 8, 12:20pm
Show president Rosie Gibbins announced that the total visitor number through the gate for the 2015 show was 16,000 “but this did not reflect in the crowds we saw on both Friday and Saturday, as I was sure we had broken the 18,000 figure.
“A contributing factor could be that we sold out on membership packs on the Thursday before the show and memberships are a 2-day pass to the Show.”
Entries were 2970, 270 up on 2014.