Wet weather at the Heritage Bank Toowoomba Royal Show 2017.
Wet weather at the Heritage Bank Toowoomba Royal Show 2017.

The COVID-19 crisis is breaking rural Australia's heart

OVER THE past 20 years, there has been much tinkering and tampering with many of the traditions and institutions my generation held dear.

Traditions like showing respect for women, men tipping their hats to women and abstinence from swearing are long gone.

Gone forever is cracker night.

The do-gooders and the good doers have taken the fun out of life - almost.

One wonderful family thing that remains is our agricultural show movement. Every town, of any size, has an annual show.

Our smallest state, Tasmania, convenes the nation's oldest show. The Royal Hobart Show began in 1822.

The Chronicle devotees will be proud to learn the Heritage Bank Toowoomba Royal Show is the oldest show in Queensland having commenced operations in 1860 almost 20 years ahead of Brisbane's "Ekka" which was, sadly, also cancelled this week.

There are 600 agricultural shows in Australia. Queensland has 128 including the Toowoomba Region's Clifton, Cooyar, Goombungee, Millmerran, Oakey, Pittsworth and Toowoomba shows.

Children count down the days from the most recent show until the next and get particularly disheartened when a leap year delivers one more day to count.

Shows bring people together from all walks of life and all ages, from the newborn to those with their own personal century in sight.

Roughly speaking there are just two patron groups, "bushies" and "townies". Because bushies always wear Akubra hats you can expect plenty of hat-tipping over a show period from our country cousins.

Building a show is like building a small city. It involves hundreds, and sometime thousands, of volunteers, builders, electricians, exhibitors, judges, committee people, entrants, riders, groomers, show girls and boys and, most importantly, showmen (I am told "showmen" applies to both men and women).

There are animals aplenty from horses, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, chooks and birds to alpacas.

Countless competitions abound for schoolwork, leathercraft, woodcraft, painting, handicraft, photography, fruit and veggies.

I love everything about our show - the colour, noise, dust, people, happiness and, especially, dagwood dogs drenched in tomato sauce and waffles overflowing with cream.

The economic impact on show towns is enormous. All those visitors need somewhere to sleep, eat and drink as well as to buy clothes and souvenirs.

So you can imagine how terribly disappointing it was for all these good people when the Toowoomba Show was cancelled like many others across the nation. The COVID-19 crisis broke hearts, economies and bank accounts.

But we are Australian and we will bounce back. Next year there'll be another 600 shows delivered.

And good news kids, it's not a leap year so one less day in your countdown.

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