Family focus at Newdegate

Rebecca TurnerThe West Australian

The 43rd Annual Newdegate Machinery Field Days was a fantastic success with crowds and exhibitor numbers higher than previous years, and a strong sense of optimism for the upcoming start of harvest and future in agriculture.

The small farming community of Newdegate again rallied together, demonstrating their admirable volunteering spirit, an essential part of the family-focused field day success.

The official opening of this year's event began with the launching of the beautifully restored and relocated Newdegate Railway Building.

Agriculture Minister Ken Baston had the honour of officially opening the building, saying it was a very special day and commended the community of Newdegate which had rallied together to perform an "outstanding job" relocating and restoring the historic building.

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Mr Baston said this year's Newdegate Field Days provided a great and diverse display, and field days such as Newdegate were "so important in connecting Agriculture with communities".

Sponsors of the Railway Building relocation and restoration, the CBH Group and Brookfield Rail, were also in attendance at the official opening with both agreeing the community had put in considerable effort creating a fantastic end result.

CBH group chairman Wally Newman said he had been indirectly involved with the project since 2012, and that it had been CBH executive Cathy Bolt who fell in love with the building and convinced then CBH general manager of operations Colin Tutt to help finance the relocation and restoration of the building.

Brookfield Rail also came forward as a sponsor, with the two organisations contributing a total of $85,000 towards the project.

Brookfield Rail general manager safety, people and corporate affairs, Megan McCracken, said the Railway Building had great historic importance for the community of Newdegate, with the railway and its associated buildings in the Shire of Lake Grace a lifeline for early settlers to the area.

Newdegate Field Days sponsorship and promotions officer Stephanie Clarke-Lloyd was overjoyed with the project's success and said the official opening had gone well, as had the entire event over its two days.

Mrs Clarke-Lloyd said exhibitor numbers were higher than previous years with machinery sites full this year, and as a result some applicants had been turned away.

She said exhibitors had expressed good strong sales this year and there had been a larger number of Eastern States exhibits than previously, with more enquiring to attend the event next year.

The number of people coming through the gates was also much higher than previous years, with just less than 9000 adults and 500 children attending on Wednesday and a further 3000 people on Thursday.

"The fireworks went ahead on Wednesday night despite the cold weather, and this year we used a new format for children's entertainment over the two days, which was enjoyed by all," Mrs Clarke-Lloyd said.

School children from Newdegate Primary school also attended on the Thursday, taking part in the first set education trail of the event.

Mrs Clarke-Lloyd said the opening of the new CBH shed showed CBH was committed to the Newdegate Field Days and she was looking forward to working with them in the future.

Newdegate Machinery Field Days president Ashley McDonald also said this year's event had gone well, with 36 new exhibits, including a good display of machinery and great family-interest exhibits.

He said there were good gate numbers across both days, with a good proportion of those attending being families, thanks to free entry for children and including free rides and entertainment, which was partially funded by Royalties for Regions.

Mr McDonald said he hoped to see Royalties for Regions funding continue, as keeping the field days family-focused was an important aspect of the event.

He said this year's focus on "100 years of service men and women in Australia" throughout the field days was also a big hit, with the 10th Light Horse display and two running Bren gun carriers of great interest.

Mr McDonald said the ongoing commitment of volunteers, both on the committee and those helping to run the event, made taking on his new position as president this year not so daunting.

"It is good to be a part of this non-profit organisation, as everyone is on the same page with the same agenda," he said.

"The Field Days benefit the whole town with $350,000 being put back into the community over the past seven years in conjunction with funds raised by the Newdegate community cropping project."

Mr McDonald thanked the committee and residents of Newdegate for all their effort and said he also wished all the best for both the Newdegate football and hockey teams in their grand finals.

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