High interest delights dealers

Kate PollardCountryman

The Newdegate Machinery Field Days 40th anniversary went off with a bang last week, with one of the best fireworks displays seen in the Wheatbelt.

About 10,000 people braved the cold weather over the two days to see the latest releases in machinery as well as livestock and family interest displays.

While numbers were slightly down, sponsorship and promotions co-ordinator Stephanie Clarke-Lloyd said there was great support and feedback from exhibitors.

Inquiries about machinery were strong with genuine interest reported by dealerships.

McIntosh and Son Katanning manager Devon Gilmour, who this year increased the size of the dealership's site, said it was one of the best Newdegate field days with strong interest in new products, especially the ATI Tracks.

For families, highlights included the Revolution of Fire by international act Zap Circus before a spectacular fireworks display to rival the Australia Day fireworks on the Perth foreshore.

While some in the crowd murmured that they would have been happy to forego the fireworks for heavy showers, patchy falls on Wednesday night brightened optimism for Thursday.

Celebrating the field days' milestone 40th birthday was the instigator and driving force behind establishing the event, Wally Newman.

The first field day in 1973 attracted just 12 exhibitors, a far cry from the 312 that attended last week.

The event has also contributed millions of dollars to the community over the years.

Mr Newman was just 24 when the first field day was held.

He came up with the idea after realising smaller shows were unsustainable.

It was a golden opportunity for strategically located Newdegate to showcase machinery used in opening up new farming land developments and drawing crowds from Esperance, Albany, Southern Cross, Bunbury and Narrogin.

Mr Newman believes one reason for the event's success has been the committee's willingness to listen to the ideas of the next generation who will be taking the field days forward.

It was that spirit of innovation that 2011 RIRDC Rural Woman of the Year Caroline Robinson tapped into when officially opening this year's field days.

She said the Newdegate Machinery Field Days were an example of the best in farming and a timeline of how the industry had adapted to change.

"Today it showcases the best of agriculture, particularly machinery, some of which was born right here in the backyard of WA," Ms Robinson said.

"This event is a microcosm of innovation. For this industry to be successful we need investment in innovation and we need to encourage innovation. Coupled with that we need celebrations like Year of the Farmer."

With the field days a fixture on many calendars, one person who has been to all 40 is Terry O'Neill.

Born in Pingaring, Mr O'Neill now lives in Perth and has been exhibiting for the past 15 years with his family business, Kevrek.

"It was very small for the first one with a handful of exhibitors and I think the sun might have been shinning," he said with a laugh.

"We get a lot out of coming and the community is very loyal if you keep coming back."

With the field days over for another year, the local oval at Newdegate got ready to host another event - the league football grand final.

On Saturday the Lake Grace-Pingrup team faced off against Jerramungup.

In a real nail-biter, Lake Grace-Pingrup edged out Jerramungup, defeating them 14.10 (94) to 13.14 (92).

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