The weather was perfect. There was no rain and it was not too hot, not too cold and not (significantly for South Gippsland) too windy.
The volunteers who make up the Foster & District Show Society – and several newcomers to town, too – had worked hard to pull together and then smoothly coordinate a mix of attractions for all ages, from the traditional farm animals, horse and dog events, horticultural produce and arts/crafts displays to the rides, show bags, fun and games of Sideshow Alley – and lots more besides.
As a result, the crowds came. Speaking on Monday, Show President Noel Afflitto said that early indications were that this year’s was the strongest show in the last five years in terms of numbers through the gate.
A steady stream of people flocked into the showgrounds, each one in the running for the gate prize of a $200 bank account, courtesy of major show sponsor Toora & District Community Bank Branch and Foster Branch of Bendigo Bank. So many people that Denis O’Neill, retiring as Show Secretary after five years in the voluntary role, declared he was “ecstatic”. He made it his business to talk to as many people as possible on the day. As he made his way around the packed showgrounds, chatting to stallholders and show patrons, all the feedback was very positive.
There was lots to admire in the exhibit shed, from vegies, flowers and preserves to crocheting, needlework and knitting. Particularly impressive was the display of cakes, the local schools having plunged into the cookery section with great gusto this year. Especial congratulations are due to the winner of the John Davies Memorial Trophy – top gardener Don Nicoll – and to the winner of the Mary McDonald Memorial Trophy – expert preserves maker Elizabeth Newnham.
The stadium was also a sight to behold, with exhibits of photography, children’s artwork and craftwork, model planes and much more jostling for space. Volunteers from the Toora Netball Club did a great job with the catering, with fruit salad on offer as well as tea, coffee and delicious slices. Meanwhile, over in their clubrooms, the Foster Football Netball Club volunteers provided the lunches for the judges and stewards – and did a very good job by all accounts.
The Renewable Energy Demonstration Trailer was at the show in association with Foster’s Manna Gum Community House and Manna Community Garden, in a stand with a focus on sustainability. It was a hit with all ages. Twenty or more kids had a go at cycling to generate electricity, while the adults learnt a lot from a chat with the stallholders. The Avenue of Agriculture was equally informative. Not all of the stallholders that had been promised turned up, but those who did were gratified by the strong interest from the public in everything from hogs and logs to beekeeping and free range eggs.
Some of the most fun to be had was as a spectator in the grandstand, from where you could take your pick of the action on the oval, from horse events to dog high jump, sheaf tossing to gumboot throwing. The action included some very impressive sheaf tossing, including two practised sportsmen all the way from Murray Bridge (South Australia) and Warrenheip in northern Victoria. Andrew Peterkin tossed his sheaf up and over a huge 14.5 metres to win the WFI Insurance Open Handicap and the Landmark South Gippsland Championship. Four new entrants tried their hand in the novice section and clearly had a lot to learn, but with some tips from the experts they soon improved – and the dogs and their handlers in the neighbouring dog high jump were no longer at risk of being thumped by a sheaf!
MC Owen Kindellan and the 18 dogs in the dog high jump competition kept the crowd entertained with their antics. The poles ran out at 7 feet 8 inches (2.34 metres) so a tie was declared for the two dogs remaining.
This year’s sheep dog trials were distinguished by the age of two of the contestants. There was an eight-year-old and even a five-year-old in charge of two of the dogs. Their proud grandmother believes they must be the youngest to have ever competed.
A very special guest at this year’s show was Bev Shandley. Bev judged the show jumping, as she has for many years. More than that, she officially opened the 109th annual Foster & District Show, taking the opportunity to offer wise counsel on agricultural shows to the receptive crowd. Bev certainly knows her stuff, having attended every Foster Show for the last 60 years and become a much-in-demand international equine event judge.
A highlight of this year’s show was the parade of horse rugs created through the Prom Coast Arts’ HorseArtsAnzac project, co-ordinated by local artists Kim McDonald and Anda Banikos. Leading the Grand Parade were riders on horseback in the uniform of the 8th Light Horse. They were followed by horses wearing the rugs specially created by community members, working with artists, to honour the role of the horse in theatres of war.
The artists declared the project a great success. “Working on this project has been rewarding on many levels. There has been a phenomenal surge of support from the Foster and District community towards realising the project’s vision,” said Kim. “It has been uplifting to experience the amazing goodwill in this community that exists for art and artists who propose to do something that is a bit different.” She said she was particularly proud to witness and be a part of “a history-making event that brought the past together with the present”.
The Show President and Secretary both expressed their enormous appreciation of the efforts of all the volunteers who worked hard to ensure the success of the show – helping in the working bees before and after the show and on the day itself. Denis will now be handing over to a new Secretary in Roger Nicolson. “He had a good baptism for the role, helping set up the stage for the Foster Show Idol competition and working in the show office all day,” said Noel gratefully.
Denis will be staying on as a committee member although he is stepping down as Show Secretary. In his last hurrah as Secretary, he said he would welcome feedback. Anyone who would like to comment on the show is invited to email him at nautilus