The package designed to help Field days and local shows get up and running in 2021 is expected to reach bank accounts over the next few weeks
The COVID-19 pandemic obliterated local shows and Fields days off the map in 2020, with the last Field Day to get a run being the WMFD in early March 2020.
The WMFD just scraped in before the curtain fell for everybody else, not that anyone knew at the time, but COVID-19 was about to make its ghastly presence felt.
For many Field Day committees it appeared this virus was an interruption that would necessitate their events being moved to a later date than usual.
Almost no Field Day committee contemplated their event would not go ahead, and many hours went into re-scheduling, organising staff and informing exhibitors of a mere date change.
But foresight is worth much more when compared to the anguish and heartache spent by many event managers that hung to the cruel expectation their event would survive.
The Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days committee would not going to take any chances with their exhibitors or band of volunteers, the committee cancelled the August 2020 event in early April.
Their prayers and positive outlook for the 2021 event to at least be saved, looks like it was answered with the event to be held on 25 and 26 of August 2021.
The Dowerin GWN7 MFD event encompasses the community spirit that is so strong behind field days.
The event started out working for the community, it was first held in 1964 to raise funds to construct a dam.
At that event in 1964 there were only 20 exhibitors, but today the Dowerin Field Days has grown to become WA’s largest agricultural expo, with visitor numbers in excess of 25,000 with 770 exhibitors attending.
Approximately $3 million a year goes back into local businesses and the community due to the influx of people who flock to the town of Dowerin for the event.
On the other side of the country in Henty NSW the news was no better.
The Henty Machinery Field Days was set to showcase over $120 million worth of machinery and goods on-site at its September event, the 57th consecutive year since its inception in 1963.
But with no stone left unturned, by June 2020 the Henty MFD committee took the decision to put safety before income and the event was cancelled.
With two of the biggest field days cancelled it became apparent that due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions it was the end for Field Days in 2020.
Even so, others did battle on, but to no avail and eventually every field day scheduled since March 2020 was abandoned costing organisers millions in lost income.
This also left local communities that rely on the distribution of the field days revenue, severely short funded.
Luckily the federal government started handing out relief funding like confetti, and when $36 million was made available for country shows cancelled due to COVID-19, it seemed that Field Days committees could expect up to $50 million to be fed into their empty coffers.
However, the government tightened its grip on funding, and the Field days were lumped in with the Country Shows relief package.
All up, there has been 378 shows and field days ear-tagged and now approved for a funding payout of almost $34 million, designed to help ease cash-flow pressures and to ensure they can bounce back in 2021.
It is expected most approved payments under the Supporting Agricultural Shows and Field Days program will reach bank accounts before Christmas.
Obviously not everyone got a tick of approval as it was estimated more than 650 Country shows and Field days expected to apply for funding.
In May 2020, the peak body representing royal and country shows across Australia, Agricultural Shows Australia (ASA), did ask the Federal Government to stump up a $42.675 million support package to ensure the survival of their events beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
But at the time their submission did not include Field Days, who operate independently.
Eligible Agricultural show societies and Field Days organisers have been reimbursed for eligible expenses, with the maximum grant value based upon the size of the event:
There was up to $10,000 for small shows/field days (attendance less than 2,000).
Up to $15,000 for medium shows/field days (attendance between 2,000 and 4,999).
And up to $70,000 for large shows/field days (attendance over 5,000).
While additional funding was made available for The Sydney Royal Easter Show of $15.1 million, The Royal Darwin Show $250,417, The Royal Queensland Show $3.25 million, The Royal Adelaide Show $2.5 million, The Royal Hobart Show $505,843, The Royal Melbourne Show $3,25 million and The Perth Royal Show $1.1 million.
The funding aims to preserve these events where families and farmers come together, build community spirit and help bridge the divide between country and city.
The events also help farmers stay competitive by providing an opportunity to share innovation and new ways of doing business.
Chair of Agricultural Shows Australia Dr Rob Wilson said show societies forced to cancel in 2020 were positive about hosting again in 2021.
“This Australian Government support has helped provide certainty and a renewed sense of optimism ahead of 2021 after a difficult year for everyone, especially our 50,000 volunteers,” Dr Wilson said.
“With some states already giving the go-ahead to shows next year, subject to COVID conditions being met, this funding will ensure hundreds of societies can start planning now.”
Secretary of the Association of Agricultural Field Days of Australasia Wendy Franklin welcomed the fast turnaround of applicants’ approvals.
“Getting this money out the door is going to be a fantastic Christmas present for many of our event organisers,” Mrs Franklin said.
“Even if it’s to help cover costs such as rates, insurance and telecommunications, this support will go a long way towards ensuring next year we can bounce back bigger and better.”
For more information on what Agricultural show societies, Field Days and Royal Shows received recent grants and how much, click onto each state
Agricultural show societies and Field Days
· Agricultural shows and field days contribute more than $1 billion to the economy each year but rely largely on financial assistance from supporters and attendees.
· There are 580 agricultural shows nationwide, which attract six million visitors and are serviced by 50,000 volunteers.
· The Supporting Agricultural Shows and Field Days program funding is being provided under the $1 billion Relief and Recovery Fund for regions, communities and industry sectors disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
· Successful applicants are eligible to claim reimbursements on costs including bank fees, utilities, rates, insurance, fire alarms and equipment, cleaning supplies, telecommunications, IT system licensing costs, website costs, state/national show body affiliation fees and rent.
· The program is part of a broader $60 million agricultural support package that includes the $20 million Regional Agricultural Shows Development program.