This article originally appeared in The Canberra Times.
The numbers attending this year’s Canberra Show were substantially up on the previous year, according to the show’s chief executive.
Athol Chalmers said about 50,000 people paid to enter, an increase of 25 per cent. He was particularly pleased with the increase in the number of family tickets sold, up 150 per cent.
This more than doubling he attributed to the decision to lower prices to bump up attendance.
“I’m really pleased with the outcome,” he said. “The changes we made were the right ones.”
He said it wasn’t yet clear whether more people at lower ticket prices added up to an increase in total revenue. He thought the show was at or near break-even point but “we’re still working through the dollars”.
Overall, he was pleased with the feel of the three day event which ended on Sunday. “It felt great.”
He thought the decision to bring back wood-chopping had been vindicated. “It was immensely popular.”
The competition was dropped for last year’s show because of the cost – the wood used by the choppers has to be bought commercially and specially prepared so each contestant gets the same quality and thickness of log to work on.
But Mr Chalmers deemed the cost was worth it and decided to re-instate the event, but only for one day, on the Saturday.
The parking this year didn’t go well. “The biggest single issue was parking,” Mr Chalmers said. “I have apologised to people who had to wait for an hour.” Some people turned round and drove home.
Space had been taken out of use because of construction of the light rail system.
Mr Chalmers felt, too, that the configuration of traffic lights outside the ground didn’t help.
The silver lining, though, was that next year the tram system should be working and “it stops at our front door”.
He views this year’s glitches as small compared to what went right.
He was disappointed by the “Canberra on Show” section in which local businesses and enterprises set out their stalls.
It was situated right by one of the entrances and Mr Chalmers said that people were going past it to get to what they thought was the main area of show activity.
He and his staff would consider moving it to make it more prominent next year.
On the other hand, he thought the showcase for local entertainers seemed popular. “Local musicians were well received.”
The overall verdict? “It’s a good platform to build on,” Mr Chalmers said.
He will start the building soon.