FOSTER Showgrounds’ historically important pavilion, known more familiarly by generations of Corner Inlet district families and showgoers as the Exhibit Shed, is steadily being refurbished both inside and out.
The external timber walls at both ends of the late 1930s or early 1940s building have been reclad by Foster builder Mick McGlead, and Port Welshpool building contractor Mick Doran has nearly finished restoring the shed’s interior walls and shelving.
Mick is relining sections of the walls with corrugated iron in a soft creamy grey, a colour he describes as “quite in keeping with the history of the building”.
“It’s amazing how many people have an interest in this shed,” Mick said.
“During the time I’ve been working here there has been a lot of visitors calling in to see what’s happening and as well as those who have been keeping tabs on what progress has been made since the last time they looked!
“A bit of the structural work underneath the central display case had to be replaced, and now I’m fixing some of its tiered shelving, as well as a few of the angled platforms along the sides of the shed,” he said.
“The next job will be to pull out the remaining prize-card staples stuck in the original shelving that’s in good enough condition to be kept, followed by repainting.”
Mick said the chicken-wire screens that slide up and down to allow access to the shelving and also protect the exhibits on Show Day still worked well despite their many years of service.
“The screens are held up in their open position quite safely and securely with simple timber chocks or steel pins, and as I’m going along both sides and the middle of the shed I’m making sure all parts of the screens are in solid nick.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has meant the 2020 Foster and District Show is being run online and on farm instead of here at the Showgrounds, and so the deadline for finishing the Exhibit Shed hasn’t been quite as urgent as it might have,” he said.
“Time has not been our enemy this year!”
Foster and District Agricultural Society Inc. president Noel Afflitto said the Exhibit Shed works were being paid for with part of the $90,309 Federal Government Regional Agricultural Show Development Grant the Society was allocated in mid-2020.
“We’ve received a portion of the grant, which has gone towards the shed renovation which has cost about $14,000, and we’ve also used some on portable tiered seating, and on the deposit for an event marquee,” he said.
“We’re expecting the balance of the grant to come through by April this year and that will be spent on what we still owe on the marquee, and on a set of portable sheep yards so that we can add sheep to our already diverse range of Show Day exhibits.”
Noel said he and his fellow Agricultural Society members, “feel so fortunate to have been given Federal Government support to secure the future of the Foster Show.
“Preserving the unique features of the historic Exhibit Shed are just the start of this endeavour,” he said.
“We look forward to the greater South Gippsland community benefiting from their annual show continuing to be a key event on their social calendar.”
South Gippsland Shire Council’s South Gippsland Shire Heritage Study, undertaken in 2004, states that the “Foster Recreation Reserve pavilion, constructed c.1940 … is of local historic significance to South Gippsland Shire.”
The citation continues, “Historically, it is significant as a representative example of the pavilions that were erected to display produce and livestock in association with annual agricultural shows.
“It is believed to be the only pre-World War Two pavilion in the Shire.”
The citation also says that “the … exhibition pavilion is a simple weatherboard gabled hall, which is situated adjacent to the Station Road frontage in the south-east corner of the Reserve”, and that it was constructed “in Interwar public building style”.
“It is believed that it was erected to display produce and livestock in association with the annual Foster Agricultural Show.”
The citation concluded that “It is recommended that the Foster Recreation Reserve Pavilion be added to the Schedule to the South Gippsland Planning Scheme Heritage Overlay as an individual place.”
The designation covers the building itself and the surrounding land to a minimum extent of five metres including all the land between the pavilion and the Station Road frontage.
The study’s recommendations included conserving and maintaining the building and its site context.