WA field days committees review, upgrade, rest

Cally DupeCountryman
Crowds gather at the Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days.
Camera IconCrowds gather at the Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days. Credit: Kate Drennan

Spend time around the any of the people that make WA’s three major agricultural machinery field days happen, and one of the first things you’ll notice is their positive attitudes.

While the three heads of the trio of events each said it was “devastating” to have to cancel this year’s plans because of the coronavirus pandemic, they have chosen to focus on the upside.

And that upside is time — to complete upgrades, regroup, tidy the offices, freshen up the sites, and importantly, take a break. In WA’s Mid West, Mingenew Midwest Expo chairman Geoff Cosgrove and the committee were taking a well-deserved break before setting their sights on the 2021 Expo.

McIntosh & Son Mingenew Midwest Expo chairman Geoff Cosgrove.
Camera IconMcIntosh & Son Mingenew Midwest Expo chairman Geoff Cosgrove. Credit: Justine Rowe

The event is first off the block in WA’s August and September field day circuit, with this year’s Expo originally scheduled for August 12-13.

With two paid staff still on the books, Mr Cosgrove said the group had applied to receive the Federal Government’s JobKeeper payment to keep them employed.

The program subsidises eligible employees’ wages so they earn at least $1500 per fortnight before tax.

Mr Cosgrove said cancelling the event had given staff members time to tidy up the Expo office at the event site, and given the committee and volunteers “a bit of a spell”.

Because the Expo is held at the Mingenew oval, which is also used by the local football club, there are no major site renovations or upgrades in the works just yet.

“We will be contacting all of our corporate partners and shoring up sponsorship for next year,” Mr Cosgrove said.

“We want to have a really good plan in place so that when it comes time, we will flick the switch and away we go.

“We will have a good look at our site design ... I am sure everyone will get sick of sitting at home, so we will start running around with a tape measure for something to do.”

With about 200 volunteers pouring 2000 hours of work into the event each year, Mr Cosgrove said it had given them time to “put back into their businesses and private lives” — even if their social lives were “pretty dull at the moment”.

Binnu butcher-turned-farmer Evan Reynolds.
Camera IconBinnu butcher-turned-farmer Evan Reynolds. Credit: Cally Dupe

Mr Cosgrove said he had been “keeping an eye on” plans for The Greatest Online Agricultural Show — a virtual showground set in the UK on May 2.

It was hoped the online event would fill the hole left by the cancellation of dozens of farming shows and events due to coronavirus, and it included a virtual trade show, entertainment, craft tents, and livestock competitions.

In the Wheatbelt, the Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days committee last month held its first board meeting since deciding to cancel the event, which had been scheduled for August 25 and 26.

The extra time to plan has been bittersweet, with Dowerin Events Management letting its two paid staff, Tiffany Davy and Jasmine Pietrocola, go at the end of March.

Chairwoman Nadine McMorran and long-standing volunteer Tracy Jones have been visiting the office nearly daily to clear emails and answer the phones.

Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days president Nadine McMorran.
Camera IconDowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days president Nadine McMorran. Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper

They also plan to use this time to clean the office and establish an online database.

“We are taking the positives out of it, and it gives us time to do things,” Ms McMorran said.

“We are sorting out a plan of action, and straight after seeding we will get stuck into it.

“It is nice to be able to get stuff done that is just never heard of at this time of year.”

With many of the committee working as farmers, social distancing rules and seeding have slowed down any attempts at starting projects at the Field Days site.

They plan to get stuck into some upgrades when seeding finishes later this month.

“Hopefully we get lots of rain, have a good seeding season, and can regroup and get stuck into lots of jobs around the site,” Ms McMorran said.

First on the agenda is upgrading the motoring arena by replacing the existing surface with a harder base so it can be used by the community all year round.

The popular Good Food and Getaways Marquee will also be moved to the motoring arena next year, meaning the committee won’t have to continually re-pair the grass at its current location towards the middle of the oval.

“The motoring arena backs on to the St John Ambulance site and the Dowerin Fire Station, so we want to make it a bit prettier and more of a user-friendly area all year around,” Ms McMorran said.

There is also talk about working with the Shire to upgrade the site’s drainage.

The main catering area, called The Burger Bar, is also set for an overhaul — with work already starting to build an alfresco area.

Having no Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days this year will be a significant blow to the dozens of local community clubs that make money through paid volunteer hours each year.

Ms McMorran said members of those groups could be used to complete upgrades at busy bees around the site, so they still had some funding coming in this year.

More broadly, Ms McMorran said she was incredibly proud of the community for how well they had been isolating, with a buddy system put in place to help the elderly do shopping and check their mental health.

In WA’s Great Southern, Newdegate Machinery Field Days president Craig Newman is breathing a sigh of relief after the event committee announced that the 2020 event would not go ahead.

The decision was a difficult one to make, because the event fell three weeks after Mingenew and one week after Dowerin, on September 2-3.

Newdegate president Craig Newman.
Camera IconNewdegate president Craig Newman. Credit: Countryman, Cally Dupe

The committee had originally flagged following the lead of the IGA Perth Royal Show, with its organisers expected to make a decision some time next month.

But at the end of the day, Mr Newman said the committee had to consider the NMFD constitution, which said the event was “run for the benefit of the community”.

“If something went wrong, it would be detrimental to the community,” he said.

Newdegate Machinery Field Days volunteers of 2019.
Camera IconNewdegate Machinery Field Days volunteers of 2019. Credit: Cally Dupe

Mr Newman said the local community would still benefit from the Newdegate Community Cropping Group’s community crop.

That helped bankroll a new skate park in the Newdegate town centre in 2018, and has also funded a new cover for the local pool, a cricket pitch cover, acoustics for the town pavilion, and more.

Mr Newman said the committee had big plans to run a Reefinator across the whole 7.5ha oval, sow it to pasture, and apply three tonnes of lime.

“We want to improve the actual site itself, so we will have a bit more time to do that,” Mr Newman said.

“We are going to do a few improvements that don’t need a lot of money.”

Like the other two field days committees, the Newdegate Machinery Field Days committee will “re-evaluate” after seeding.

Official planning for the 2021 event won’t start until the annual general meeting next year.

WA’s whole regional events calendar has hit the pause button.

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