McIntosh and Son Mingenew Midwest Expo to lift spirits

Dorothy HendersonCountryman
Mingenew Midwest Expo
Camera IconMingenew Midwest Expo Credit: Mingenew Midwest Expo

August 11 will mark four months to the day since cyclone Seroja hammered the Mid West, but it will also signify the first day of the region’s biggest ag event.

This year’s two-day McIntosh and Son Mingenew Midwest Expo will mark a tale of survival for the farming community.

Like many towns in the Mid West, Mingenew was battered by cyclone Seroja.

Its powerful winds ripped iron off buildings and upended lives as it left a trail of twisted metal and washed-out roads in its wake.

But the cyclone failed to flatten spirits in the town and has led to a move that will have its victims benefit from this year’s Expo, which is themed Connecting People, Building Futures.

Part of the proceeds from the 38th McIntosh and Son Mingenew Midwest Expo will be donated to the Lord Mayor’s Distress Relief Fund Tropical Cyclone Seroja Appeal 2021.

The backstory of this generous move involves a pandemic, good rains and then a natural disaster.

Mingenew is an example of a place where hopes have been lifted, dashed, and then lifted again.

The fertiliser shed and farmhand quarters of Jill and Ian Thomas' Mingenew farm where damages from Cyclone Seroja have caused them grief.
Camera IconThe fertiliser shed and farmhand quarters of Jill and Ian Thomas' Mingenew farm where damages from Cyclone Seroja have caused them grief. Credit: Kelsey Reid

Expo has been on the local calendar since 1983, when it was initiated by Mingenew Lions Club member Bob Paskins.

Mr Paskins’ vision was to provide a venue for businesses to exhibit to the Mid West regional and remote communities.

He wanted a location to provide vital information and updates to those involved in the agricultural industry.

These days, Expo is the backbone of the community and the biggest agricultural field day in the Mid West.

COVID-19 shuttered plans for the event last year, with the cancellation reminding the community of its value.

Confidence was high at the start of the year and Expo plans were put in place.

But then cyclone Seroja hit — leaving locals without power and buildings without roofs.

But the cyclone’s impact has failed to dent locals’ enthusiasm. Buoyed by good rains, a textbook start to seeding and reduced COVID-19 restrictions, residents are feeling good.

Not only does Expo provide a great day out for visitors, it also bolsters the fortunes of those in need.

Each year, profits from the event are distributed to local clubs based on the number of hours each volunteer member worked.

More $25,000 was distributed in 2019.

Expo management board president Andrew Cosgrove said takings from the annual event were divided to cover the operating costs.

Each year, the remaining funds are donated to community groups in need of financial support.

But with community groups in Mingenew in good financial stead, Mr Cosgrove said the non-for-profit had decided to help those affected by the cyclone.

“Our region was devastated by the cyclone,” Mr Cosgrove said.

The savage storm hit the Midwest community as it busied itself with both seeding and Expo preparations.

During its journey through the Mid West, many locations recorded maximum wind gusts greater than 125km/h.

Seroja’s destructive path continued until it weakened below tropical cyclone intensity early in the morning of 12 April near Merredin.

Months later, some residents are still without power, and many buildings are yet to be repaired.

The small Mid West town of Mingenew did not escape the damage of Cyclone Seroja when it crossed the coast in April. Mingenew's Bill Bain fled to his car during the storm as his roof peeled off and window's burst out of the walls.
Camera IconThe small Mid West town of Mingenew did not escape the damage of Cyclone Seroja when it crossed the coast in April. Mingenew's Bill Bain fled to his car during the storm as his roof peeled off and window's burst out of the walls. Credit: Kelsey Reid

Mr Cosgrove said that on his own farm, buildings and infrastructure were damaged.

Other locals nearby are without power, using Western Power supplied generators, or living in damaged home... or dongas next to their houses while they wait for repairs to be done.

Expo board member and Mingenew Shire chief executive Nils Hay said that the last time Mingenew faced a massive natural disaster was in 1979, when cyclone Hazel tore through the region.

“It has been more than 40 years since something like this has happened,” Mr Hay said.

“The first week was just running on adrenaline and figuring out how the communities are placed and who was worst affected and what the situation on the ground looked like.

“We had no phones or power for the first four days; we had generator power at the Shire, but a lot of people had nothing.”

Staff, volunteers and local police checked on people to make sure they were all right, and the survey of damage started.

“It emerged pretty quickly that while we had a bit of damage in town, a couple of houses destroyed, lots of roofs lost, there are not many fences left standing,” Mr Hay said.

“But the impact was really felt much more in the rural areas, so lots of sheds, fences and a number of farmhouses lost and destroyed,” he said.

Mr Hay said Expo’s presence on the calendar would help to lift spirits.

Planned entertainment includes live music from Harvest Guide, shows to keep children happy, fashion parades and sessions presented by ABC gardening guru Sabrina Hahn. Exhibits range from the newest technology driven farm equipment to rum, and a wide range of food stalls will satisfy the appetites of all who attend.

Despite, and maybe even because of, the dashing duo of cyclone Seroja and COVID-19, this year’s Expo is shaping up to be an event to remember.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails