By ERWIN CHLANDA
Ask not what the Show can do for you. Ask what you can do for the Show.
For drawing a crowd the Alice Springs Show is hard to beat, usually approaching 20,000 (19,021 last year) from a population of 25,000.
And the people running it are yet another example of how well the town functions when volunteers are in charge.
But since the Show was founded by 29 of them in 1960, a lot of water has flown down even the Todd.
So when you amble between the stalls and the exhibits on July 6 and 7, keep your thinking cap on and see how a good thing can be made even better.
Central Australian Show Society president Rosie Gibbins would like you to: “Our committee always looks for new experiences.”
For example, a paddock to plate initiative has been discussed but remains “a work in progress.”
The plan is for growers to process their goods at the show and have a tasting. The trouble is, most produce is not in season at showtime, “so it’s a tricky one,” Ms Gibbins says.
There are 3000 entries across 28 competitions but last year agriculture entries were down.
PHOTO: An attraction to be seen at this year’s show.
Paul Hasluck, Minister for Territories, gushed on occasion of the first show: “Could the first pioneer have foreseen the present day cattle turn-off, the green gardens and orange groves, the station homesteads and the thriving towns of today.”
The Show’s mission is still to promote “the development of agricultural, pastoral, horticultural, viticultural, commercial, industrial, cultural, handicraft, artistic and tourism pursuits in Central Australia … its history and its local innovators and businesses”.
Some of these categories are clearly in retreat, while there are opportunities yet to be taken.
A major blow came when the cattlemen had to stop the spectacular camp drafting and bronco branding displays which had local and interstate entrants – a step towards a unique national championship? They are now staged at a facility pastoralists built at Harts Range racecourse.
Ms Gibbins says this happened before she became involved in the Show seven years ago: “The organisers at the time did not want to connect to compliance for operations at the show grounds,” she says.
“Communications broke down. It’s quite good the pastoralists have been able to run those events elsewhere. It’s not like town is missing out at all.”
That’s true – if you’re happy to travel 430 kms return.
If there are “compliances” in a bush town that prevent displays of horsemanship and cattle mustering using roping, it’s surely time to send some politicians and bureaucrats packing.
And don’t worry, in the bronco branding, the red-hot branding iron has been replaced by a paintbrush to mark the beasts.
Harts Range also have a rodeo, a former feature of the Show. Ms Gibbins says rodeos are a “big ticket entertainment extravaganza these days … the costs are exorbitant and out of our reach and budget”.
Cattlemen are still at the Show, mostly for the bull sale, and they still lead the grand parade. But it’s a fairly sedate affair compared to the rough and tumble of bronco branding, the skills of roping a beast from astride a horse.
The big displays by cars dealers have long gone.
“Anyone can have a trade space, not just established businesses,” says Ms Gibbins.
Services, residential colleges and government departments are taking up a lot of the display space.
Some thoughts, in line with the Show’s mission:–
• We’re a region that produced “can do” people like the inventor of the tracking road train, Kurt Johannsen. Now we’re a beehive of renewable energy boffins. Strut your stuff!
• Talking about culture, how about replacing the not-always-rivetting opening speeches with a corroboree? This would be a big step towards putting the Show on the tourism bucket list. After all, some forms of agriculture in this region are thousands of years old.
• Politicians are there aplenty: How about a pillory (figuratively-speaking) in which they can take their turns, so people can ask them questions, face to face?
Any pollie with a sense of humour – and accountability – would be in it with her or his ears back.