Meet Mingenew Midwest Expo’s new event coordinators

Dorothy HendersonThe West Australian
Mingenew Mid West Expo event coordinators Norah Flanders and Rikki Smith.
Camera IconMingenew Mid West Expo event coordinators Norah Flanders and Rikki Smith. Credit: Cally Dupe/Countryman, Cally Dupe

Organising an event as large as the 38th McIntosh and Son Mingenew Midwest Expo requires hours of work — co-ordinating exhibitors, lining up entertainment and food vendors, and ensuring all of the paperwork is in place.

With COVID-19 in the back of every organiser’s mind, one would expect the stress levels in the Expo event co-ordinators’ office to be high.

But Expo event co-ordinators and dynamic duo Rikki Smith and Norah Flanders have put plenty of humour into the organisation of this year’s Expo, which is set for on August 11 and 12.

They have good reason to be cheerful.

Last year, Mingenew missed the feature event on its yearly program, but August this year promises to be a special month for the Mingenew area.

Early rains have provided the promise of a decent season for farmers and an explosion of wildflowers to please tourists — and the Expo will be on.

Ms Smith and Ms Flanders are employed part-time by the Expo board.

Lively conversation and laughter pepper their conversations as they work away in the Expo office, in a building they share with the Mingenew Community Resource Centre and Post Office.

Mingenew Mid West Expo event coordinators Rikki Smith and Norah Flanders.
Camera IconMingenew Mid West Expo event coordinators Rikki Smith and Norah Flanders. Credit: Cally Dupe/Countryman, Cally Dupe

Both are passionate about living in the Mid West, with husbands employed by farming businesses in the region.

It is the home they share with their families. They are both in the area by choice, with husbands employed by farming businesses in the region.

Mrs Smith’s parents have a trucking business in Piawaning, she grew up in Moora and moved to Mingenew with her family in 2016.

Since then, she has spent some time back in Moora, but Mingenew is home.

“My partner Brenton got a farming job here, now we live on a farm 20km south of Mingenew,” Mrs Smith said.

With two children, eight and two, Mrs Smith and her partner have become involved with several community and sporting groups in town, while Ms Flanders is on a gap year from teaching, after holding leadership roles locally.

Her partner Paul works as a farm manager for Daybreak Cropping Erregulla Plains, and the couple have three children — aged 14, 17 and 18.

The family moved to WA from Victoria and have lived in Mingenew since 2018.

“I love teaching in the bush, and rural communities,” Mrs Flanders said.

Co-ordinating this year’s Expo has not been as straightforward as in other years.

The COVID-19 pandemic meant the board has needed to implement a raft of new strategies. Cyclone Seroja’s visit in April has also added to the challenge.

Mrs Flanders said implementing the COVID-19 Health Plan was not as arduous as she had expected and the potential of a sudden COVID-19 cancellation has done little to dampen exhibitors’ spirits.

Mingenew Mid West Expo event coordinators Norah Flanders and Rikki Smith.
Camera IconMingenew Mid West Expo event coordinators Norah Flanders and Rikki Smith. Credit: Cally Dupe

“The companies we have worked with have been so accommodating,” she said.

“The prospect of cancellation has not stopped exhibitors from booking in.”

With fears of pandemic-caused cancellation put aside, there was still the physical and emotional impact of the cyclone Seroja to be dealt with.

With significant stress placed on the community, the Expo board has decided to reduce the volunteer workload so locals could have a chance to enjoy the event.

Mrs Flanders said that one way this was achieved was by including food vendors.

In the past, Expo relied heavily on local volunteers, who would bake and cook their hearts out ahead of the event.

“We decided to reach out to as many communities as we could, and bring in outside food vendors to reduce the burden on volunteers,” Ms Flanders said.

This year, local volunteers will spend two hours helping, and the rest of the event simply having a good time.

“They will be able to have a coffee, watch the fashion parade or the tractor pull... something they haven’t done for years,” Mrs Flanders said.

This year’s Expo promises to provide plenty of lighthearted fun and relaxation to residents who really need it.

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