Dowerin exhibitors stick around

JK Williams and Co owner Trevor Gerrard.
Camera IconJK Williams and Co owner Trevor Gerrard. Credit: Countryman

The Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days has come along way since its inaugural event in 1965 where a total of 20 exhibitors attended. Initially, the idea to host a field day was a suggestion made at the Dowerin Progress Association meeting on May 10, 1964.

One attendee at this meeting had just returned from visiting a field day in Orange, New South Wales, and suggested holding a similar event in Dowerin.

The inaugural field day was held on Friday, September 3, 1965, with 2000 visitors attending, which led to calls to run the field day the following year over two days.

Exhibitor numbers have grown over the past 50 years, with some supporting the event since its inception and many attending the event for more than 40 years. For the past three years, between 550 and 600 exhibitors have attended this Wheatbelt event, and 2014 is set to smash this record with about 650 exhibitors expected to attend.

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The Dowerin field days has hundreds of long-term and loyal exhibitors who have supported the event for decades, with all agreeing it provided a wonderful showcase for their business across a broad spectrum of the WA population.

Exhibitor JK Williams & Co will be celebrating alongside the field days this year, with 2014 marking the 50th year the company has exhibited at the event.

JK Williams, which was established by Jim Williams as a general store and machinery dealership, exhibited Chamberlain tractors at the first event. Tom Williams, JK Williams' son, took over the business in the 1970s and the firm moved towards becoming an electrical and hardware retailer.

Most locals would know that Tom Williams was a driving force behind the business developing a modern retail presence in the main street of Dowerin.

He was a strong supporter of the town, the district and the Dowerin field days until his death in 2004, and was a member of the Dowerin field days board.

Current JK Williams owner Trevor Gerrard said he had been attending the field days for the past 30 years, initially while working for Elders and then as an employee of JK Williams.

"I have worked for JK Williams for the past 25 years, as an employee of Tom Williams, as the business manager following his death and as an owner for the past four years," Mr Gerrard said.

After an influx of new owners to local businesses in recent years, Mr Gerrard is one of the longer-standing businessmen in Dowerin.

Also a member of the field days board, Mr Gerrard said by being a committee member and board representative he was able to be an effective voice for the local businesses that received significant benefit from the event.

He said the Dowerin field days was important to the town and had led to huge investments being made for the benefit of the community, making the town a much more pleasant place to live and run a business.

Mr Gerrard said exhibiting had always been a good showcase for the business. "Attending the field days gives us a very good customer base," he said.

"Most people are interested in what they are seeing and rurally focused."

Mr Gerrard said exhibiting was a very cost-effective way of advertising his business.

Rural services provider Elders has also been a long-term supporter of the field days, having exhibited at every event over the past 50 years.

Elders Dowerin farm support manager Courtney Reed said the event was an important showcase for the company, and each year provided an opportunity to stay in contact not only with Dowerin producers but those from surrounding districts and throughout the State.

"The Dowerin field days are a great opportunity for us to make sure everyone is aware of the services we provide and the support we are able to give the community," Ms Reed said.

She said when the Dowerin field days began, the Elders exhibit focused more on capital equipment and small machinery, but the company had since shifted its focus to cropping and livestock production.

She said the company also offered services such as finance and rural banking. "Over the past 50 years we have seen the services Elders supplies adapting alongside farmers with regards to new technology. For example, the changes seen in both IT and chemical usage," Ms Reed said.

Elders has operated from its own permanent pavilion at the field days for more than 10 years now, which has provided a great facility from which to showcase the business.

Ms Reed said that this year, Elders had another milestone to celebrate - the rural firm has reached its 175th anniversary.

She said not only would this year's event be a great opportunity to celebrate these milestones together, but it was also a chance to recognise the commitment and hard work of the local volunteers that had made the field days possible.

Another company that has exhibited at the Dowerin field days for 50 years is machinery dealership E & MJ Rosher.

Edward "Ted" Rosher said he remembered attending the very first field day with his salesman Bill McDonald, and credited the Dowerin field days to helping with the company's growth and ongoing success.

"We came up to the first Dowerin field day with a Supalift kit frontend loader, to suit Chamberlain, Fordson and International tractors, on the back of the ute," Mr Rosher said. "We sold eight in one day and didn't even take the loader off the ute."

Over the years, Mr Rosher said E & MJ Rosher had displayed many different makes of tractors, including Kubota, Zetor, White and Muirhill brands, to name but a few. He said the company was now recognised as one of the longest-serving Kubota dealers in Australia.

Mr Rosher said he was grateful to the Dowerin farming community for having the foresight to establish the field days.

"The field days are an immense benefit to our company," Mr Rosher said. "People come from all areas of the State to see what new machinery and tractors are available and it's a great opportunity to showcase our company."

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