Woolorama puts Wagin on the map
Agriculture is a big part of WA, and Woolorama is a big part of Wagin.
The tiny southern Wheatbelt town, which boasts a population five residents shy of 1500, will this weekend swell to the size of a thriving metropolitan hub, thanks for the most part to this event.
Last year’s Woolorama brought both locals and visitors together in one huge celebration of agriculture, chalking up an impressive crowd of more than 20,000.
One such local was sheep and wheat farmer Chris Piesse, who this week found himself in the midst of shearing while juggling his new role as head steward of the wool section.
Mr Piesse has replaced long-time wool steward Howie Ward, the man now at the helm of Woolorama.
But while a new face has arrived on the scene, that is not to say Mr Ward has neglected his responsibility as mentor, no matter the pressures of a presidency.
“Howie Ward has done a lot of the legwork this year, because I am still learning the ropes. After this year, I’ll probably take it on completely,” Mr Piesse said.
“There’s a bit of a buzz around the wool industry, and has been for the past 12 months, so hopefully there is renewed interest in the wool section.”
Mr Piesse is part of a new generation of stewards reinvigorating Woolorama and putting this year’s theme — youth, vitality and innovation — smack-bang into the minds of many. Alongside him are locals Nicole Ward, who will head the junior judging section, and new cattle section steward Luke Hall, who has teamed up with Southend Murray Grey stud principal Kurt Wise for the honour.
Mr Hall said this year’s Cattle Expo boasted 220 entries in total, with 170 being led, while the auction on Friday afternoon featured 20 yearlings.
While not new to the cattle section, Mr Hall said becoming head steward was more natural progression than ambition.
The local wheat and sheep farmer said he had spent many a year assisting previous head stewards Brad and Sylvia Patterson.
“Your first year as a head steward is a bit of an unknown, but it’s good to volunteer — it’s the gift of life in a small town with a big show,” Mr Hall said.
Young guns aside, Woolorama has another benefit worth mentioning.
“It puts the whole area on the map ... and is a significant boost to the economy of towns in the region,” Wagin Shire president Phillip Blight said.
“Accommodation (businesses) will make sure every room is available, fuel guys will make sure their bowsers are full and foodie operators will stock up.”
The area’s population this weekend looks set to surpass that required for it to be labelled a city.
“Technicality, to be called a city is to have a population of 25,000,” Mr Blight said.
“Over the weekend of Woolorama, with the 20,000-plus visitors — and with Narrogin and Katanning added in — we reach that population.”
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