This article created by Lyndsey Douglas originally appeared in her blog www.lyndseydouglas.com
The 60th annual Capella Show attracted a solid crowd of 1,100. I reckon that a show that brings more people through the gates than its own population is a winner, and Capella is home to only 1,000 people.
Now, its probably something that doesn’t matter to a lot of you, but the PA system at Capella Show is exceptional. You can’t say that for many small shows. It’s masterfully run by John White, but more about him later.
1. Showgirls don’t stay stationary
I was pleasantly surprised to meet the showgirls from Capella (Meg Grogan), Clermont (Clare Hood), Emerald (Jessica Wilson), Alpha (Jonti Arnold), and Springsure (Alana) at several of the shows. Capella Showgirl Meg Grogan was a smiling face at the shows throughout her subchamber and is a superb young ambassador for her show and community. Meg was a steward in the young farmer challenge, a steward in the stud cattle section and was anywhere and everywhere her community needed her to be. The future is in safe hands.
2. 60 years of service from John White
Founding member of Capella Show Society, John White, celebrated 60 consecutive years of service to the thriving little event. He was all of 22 years old when he was approached about establishing the local show. The catalyst for a local show was the sheer number of Capella competitors at nearby Emerald and Alpha Shows. So in 1961, the society formed and in 1962 on 6 June the first Capella Show was held. The showjumping was cancelled because a couple of showers of rain made the black soil unsuitable for jumping. It was not long after that the land for the showground – where it remains today – was donated by a local butcher. But the land was bare and the show would need some infrastructure. Opportunistically, when a trail derailed near Capella, John managed to salvage the timber and steel and erected a broadcast box and secretaries office.
Over the years, John has held the role of president, secretary, and now audio technician. And he’s one of the finest audio technicians on the show circuit, might I add. Before I left Capella for my next show on the Central Highlands run, John treated me to a personal tour of the Capella Pioneers Village. I highly recommend it; it’s overflowing with fascinating local agricultural history.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a pavilion in his name.
3. Homecoming for pony judge
As is standard in the first hour of any show I wandered around to meet the horses judges, stewards and volunteer crew. I asked a well-dressed judge, Rockhampton-based Christine Dennis, if she’d ever been to Capella Show before. Indeed she had. She competed in her first Capella Show was when she was 11 years old in 1962. The Clermont born equestrian competed in the show ring and showjumping alongside her sister and father, the late leading campdrafter Gordon Salmond. When she was just 14, she won the ladies draft at Springsure and Clermont before she and her sister tied first in the Australian Ladies Campdraft. In the show ring, she was awarded Champion Lady Rider at a string of shows from the Ekka to Rockhampton and Mackay.
We got to talking about my favourite show, Sydney Royal, and low and behold Christine had been part of the night show there. After the 2000 Olympics, where she was selected as one of only 125 riders to partake in the opening ceremony, the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales invited her and 24 other riders back to ride at the Sydney Royal Easter Show for the 14 nights.
Judging nearby was Virginia Bree, another experienced and successful equestrian. Growing up in Victoria, Virginia’s family bred ponies and Welsh types. She competed in the prestigious Garryowen before the family relocated to Eumundi on the Sunshine Coast. She’s long competed with her hacks and galloways throughout the Sunshine Coast, Central Highlands and at the Royal Queensland Show, the Ekka. Some of her best performed include throughbred geldings Silkstream and Riddles, exhibited by the late Vince Corvi.
I trust Christine had a memorable experience being back in the familiar communities of Clermont and Capella in May.
4. First show for new President
Stuart Donovan’s first show should have been in 2019, but alas… Covid. The Capella Show has only been cancelled once prior, in 1983 during the flooding rains. The pavilion was packed, the sponsors were generous and the vibe was fantastic.
5. Young Farmer Challenge is truly challenging
Vice President and chief steward of the Young Farmer Challenge Drew Garside ran not one but two great challenges; one for the young and one for the young at heart. The children’s version had tonnes of kids in it competing in a sack race, egg relay, and grain exercise. The adult’s version – competed in by yours truly with what on paper appeared to be a champion team complete (pictured below) with Olympian Ron Easey, his hilarious daughter Armani, and showjumper Mark Tomkins – was a race to collect grain from the back of a trailer in order to fill and stitch a wheat bag, the old fashioned way.
The victors were the “Dark Horses” comprising showjumpers from near and far: Cassie Baynton, Nathan Ward, Jacallan Dooley and Mindy Zammit, bagging $200 cash. It was superbly run, highly visual for spectators, and – I can say as a participant – genuinely challenging and agricultural.
6. Meat trays and cordless chainsaws
As kids, shows are all about winning and memories. Whether its fluffy toys or purple ribbons, there’s nothing like the thrill of a show day win. Capella Show run loads of raffles and giveaways for adults too. A new major sponsor, Sojitz, did a lucky door prize of a barbeque, chairs, esky and camping kit. Cody Ford Action Helicopters did six massive meat trays as raffle prizes, and Farm and Construction Products (Jason and Jenna Mihill) did a 100-ticket lotto for a cordless chainsaw. Shows shouldn’t underestimate the thrill of winning a prize, even for the big kids!
7. National Volunteer Week during show
We all know shows don’t happen without the blood, sweat, tears and skills of volunteers. To the many who have gone before, we salute you! Life members John White, Ron Gossow, Thomas Christmas, Gerald Pedler, Beth Shilvock, Phil Reid, Greg and Alicia Magee, Helen and Danny Sullivan, Barb Foster, David and Linda Pitt, and Jill Francis you must all be so proud of the show in its 60th year.
Late life members of the Capella Show Society include Joseph Bridgeman Snr (who gifted the show society its grounds), Roy Perrin, Brian Beasley, John Currie, Graham Flowers, William Kettle Snr, and John Pedler.
8. Patron’s poetry performed
Joe Bridgeman is the Patron of Capella Show, and rightly so. It was his father, a butcher, who provided the generous solution to the Capella Show Society in its early days when the committee lamented the unsuitability of running the show at the local racetrack. He granted them five acres of his own land, on the edge of town, and eventually another five when more was requested. Today, the Bridgeman Park Sporting Complex and showground has a gigantic covered arena that can cater for 650 people watching a wide range of events from equestrian events to agricultural shows, from motor shows to ute musters, from musical extravaganzas to market days, from rodeos to rallies and more. It’s guests have included Grinspoon, Midnight Oil, INXS, Human Nature, Lee Kernaghan and Jimmy Barnes.
Joe Bridgeman was born in Emerald in 1945. Riding horses since the age of 4, droving and mustering cattle with his father and brothers, riding in gymkhanas and showjumping in shows. As an adult, he mustered at properties in Muttaburra, Jerisho, Alpha, Emerald, Springsure, Marlborough and many properties around Capella. Joe has turned his life into a broad tapestry of published bush poetry. While at the show, Joe entertained audiences in between show jumping classes with some of his brilliant bush verses. He’s published a few books, if you’re interested. He was also the ring announcer for many years.
9. Official opening by Philip Reid
Lot feedlot owner, Philip Read, was asked to open this year’s show. He had been a ground steward for about 25 years, a job Bill Kettle senior passed on to him in 1986. He and his wife Deb of Paringa Feedlot have been major sponsors of the show for over twenty years. In 2011 Philip was presented with a life membership, and that year the ground steward job was taken up by Gerry Dowling.
10. New local newspaper captures action
A brilliant young journalist, Morgan Burley, of the Highlands Leader was at the show capturing all the action. The newspaper is a relatively new media outlet, borne from the loss of network-owned papers in recent times.
11. Talagai Grazing take home the prime cattle prizes
I know I said 10, but indulge me for just one more. Grand Champion Beast, Champion Male, Champion Female, Heaviest Male of the Show, and Most Points in the Fat Cattle Section, Talagai Grazing won them all. Except heaviest female of the show, that went to G and A Magee.
Finally, congratulations to president Stuart Donovan, vice president Drew Garside, treasurer Lynda Pitt, secretary Sally Whelan, woodchop steward Jade Stummer, pavilion stewards Kym Donaldson and Deborah Reid, ring chief steward Gerald Pedler, fat cattle chief steward Helen Sullivan, stud cattle steward Jeanette Kister and ground steward Bill Kettle on a superb show.