SHOW time in Robertson is always a crowd drawer but this year the 138th running of the famed Highlands event was postponed, and only went ahead in truly pared down pandemic fashion.
This year is one of the few times in her young life that Robbo local Ellie Handley, 20, did not enter exhibits in the famed Robertson Show.
That’s because due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the much loved and attended Robertson Show was postponed at the 13th hour. The Dog Show did take place but only as a competitor event with sadly, no public access. There were, however, online pavilion competitions with the livestock events expected to be held in the year.
Disappointed but not too disheartened at breaking her 17 year record of entering exhibits, Ellie is looking to the Robbo Show in 2022, which organisers hope will make up for this year’s postponed event.
Ellie says: “When I was tiny, I loved doing craft at home, helping my mum Tammy with baking and helping my dad Robert in the vegie garden and my parents encouraged me to enter some of these things in the show.
“When I was three, I entered decorated biscuits, a craft necklace, some cucumbers and a flower arrangement, and I helped make a cake with my preschool group to enter and it really grew from there.”
With her house in earshot of the showground, Ellie grew up hearing the show commentary over the loudspeaker on the horse ring events. She still loves the “excitement of entering, the anticipation of the judging and the fun two days of being amongst it all with the whole community”.
During her time as a dedicated show goer, Ellie has won 236 ribbons, trophies, sashes and medals, making her one of the most successful exhibitors ever. In 2018, she achieved her goal of “winning the award of Most Successful Exhibitor in the pavilion’’.
The first Robertson Agricultural Show took place in 1879 and according to The Winds of Change, a history of Robertson A. & H. Society and Agriculture of its District, the show and its founding show society are a direct descendant of the first organisation of farmers in the district, the Burrawang Farmers Club.
One of the best things about the show, agrees Rosemary Turner, former long-time show society president and volunteer, is kids’ participation, which was sorely missed this year.
“Everybody loves seeing the kids participate in all the terrific events,” says Rosemary, a former nurse turned farmer.
“Friday is usually kids’ day and lots of local schools come along and the kids become the entertainment. There are so many events for them to participate in and everyone sits and watches and gets a good laugh. There are the potato sack races, potato and spoon races, and then on Saturday the kids bring their parents back because they’ve had so much fun and participate in the pushbike races and the gumboot tossing competitions.”
Other favourites generally include the art, craft and fresh produce pavilion displays, the dairy and beef cattle judging, the horse events in the main arena, the kids’ pet show and of course, the famous potato races, where men, women and children race with a full sack of spuds on their backs.
Rosemary says despite this year’s postponement, the secret to the show’s enduring success is the fact it retains much of its true agricultural feel.
“We are not generally too commercial,” Rosemary says.
“In normal times we do have food stalls and rides but nothing too commercial and it’s still very much a country show. Also, I think the fact we encourage people to participate, rather than just put on entertainment, is the secret.”
Rosemary says due to COVID-19, organisers took the hard decision before Christmas to scale the Robertson Show right back to comply with government restrictions and keep people safe. Livestock judging of dairy cattle and goats, beef cattle, dogs and poultry and horse eventing was expected to go ahead. This however changed in January as the pandemic continued,
Looking forward however to 2022, Rosemary says people should make a mental note of the Robbo Show as a fabulous family outing for next year to get in the diary.
“For the kids, there is the pet show, potato bag races, and the gumboot toss. For the adults there is pumpkin bowling, dog jumping, pie eating, ute pull races, hay stacking and the famous and iconic potato races. Watching people run around the ring with 50kg of potatoes on their back is not something to miss! And generally, the finale is the stunning firework display on Saturday night.”