This article by Lyndsey Douglas originally appeared on https://www.lyndseydouglas.com/blog/
11 Highlights of the 2021 Pittsworth Show
Pittsworth (in case you haven’t been there) is a charming town in the Darling Downs in Queensland known for its history and the rolling panorama of rich agricultural land that surrounds. It’s a friendly little town that’s handy to everything, including Toowoomba, Brisbane, both the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast to the east. To the west if overlooks the alluvial floodplains of the Darling Downs.
It’s show is held in March and for the longest time (I am talking 30+ years) Angus Lane OAM has been the voice on the microphone for the two days. This year, due to personal circumstances, Angus was unable to be there and I had the honour of experiencing this vibrant little show as the ring announcer.
Here’s some of the elements that impressed me most about their show.
Next generation leaders
It was both surprising and inspiring to meet young chief stewards of central sections of the show. Bec Skene (28) is the Chief Cattle Steward. She is a 2021 QLD Shows Emerging Leader Award nominee after being handed the reins of the cattle section in her mid-twenties in the middle of a devastating period of drought which saw other shows cancel their cattle sections. She had just over 160 head of cattle enter in classes from stud cattle to led steers that year, and this year, she got closer to 300!
Bec has long been associated with cattle showing and has been recognised as an emerging leader in the industry. As an eight year old Bec began showing cattle on the cattle circuit and became a well known identity in junior judging and parading competitions. She became a member of the Junior Simmental show committee that ran a junior show for cattle people under the age of 25 years. At just 18 years of age she became the camp coordinator of the Simmental committee and now runs the junior show annually in Pittsworth.
Just out of school Bec Skene helped to coordinate the Dalby Show Stud cattle section for two years. In 2010 she was awarded the Simmental Ambassador role and continued to judge cattle at both Royal and local shows. In 2019, Bec joined the Pittsworth Show Society and quickly became the Chief Steward of the cattle section.
Walk about 50 metres and you’ll find another young leader. Brendan Mansbridge (31) is the Chief Sheep Steward. He hasn’t missed one show in his life and travels ten hours north to be at the show each year from Forbes in the Central West of NSW where he is a well regarded livestock agent. His father and grandfather before him have played significant roles in the show’s development.
Amanda Riehl, another young one, is the Chief Horse Steward. Amanda was 2020 QLD Shows Emerging Leader Award runner up and I can see why she’s been recognised at a state level. Her five horse rings are packed and the showjumping program is brilliant.
This is a show community purposefully supportive of young leaders, giving the next generation their opportunity to shine. Even down to who is on the microphone. A local year 12 student, Alexavier McEwan, who has aspirations of being a ring announcer is voice at the show’s Village Green. Write down his name. This kid has a voice that’s lovely to listen to, and his has strong knowledge of showing. His will be a name known around the show circuit in years to come.
If you ask anyone in the Pittsworth community the name of a family synonymous with the Show Society there is a very great chance that they will mention the name Denning. The Denning family has been volunteering for the Pittsworth Show Society since 1929 and the fifth generation of the family works tirelessly for the society today.
Betty Denning is the Patron of Pittsworth Show. At 90 years young, she hasn’t missed a minute of the annual event and is the matriarch of the local show. Her son Allan is a stalwart of the show committee and makes the grounds look spectacular for show day. Allan took out the Queensland Ag Shows Outstanding Individual Contribution award in recent years; he and his wife Kerrie (who was busy making the pavilion look outstanding when I met her on show day) were recognised with life memberships of the show in 2017. Meanwhile, Betty’s daughter Marilyn White (70) is show secretary, following in her grandfather’s footsteps. Marilyn’s two daughters have both been Charity Showgirls for the Pittsworth Show, Linda in 1997 and Pamela in 1988. Noel and Christine Denning are major sponsors of the showjumping programme through their successful standardbred operation, Burwood Stud. And that’s not all of them!
Then there is the Krieg family. Robyn Krieg is a former president of the show with a tenure in that role spanning the best part of 20 years. His father Arthur served a similar length in the role and was a founding member when the show was established 114 years show. Both Robyn and Arthur, alongside other well known locals over the generations, were responsible for many of the well-built fences, stands and infrastructure you see at the showgrounds today. Those assets have stood the test of time, so too their family’s commitment to the show. Royin’s son Duncan is now Chief Steward of the Crop Competition and Vice President of the Show, and Robyn’s other son Lindsay successfully competes in the annual crop competition alongside his father and brother.
Current President Lindsey Lack (and the official pyrotechnician of the show – talk about wearing many hats) is the father of former Pittsworth Showgirl Kate Lack, horse steward Matthew Lack, woodchop steward Ben Lack, and is uncle to sound engineer Mitch Lack and current Rural Ambassador Sophie Lack, all contributing to the show in their own way. Wife Julie Lack is one of the many female forces behind the operations of the show.
These are only three examples of the family names and bonds that keep the Pittsworth Show strong, connected, innovative and growing. There are many more.
Ambassador for STEM and show
2020 and 2021 Pittsworth Showgirl is Gabriella Moffat (pictured below with the brilliant Sophie Lack, Rural Ambassador, and Betty Denning, Show Patron at her 90th Pittsworth Show). Gabriella’s an engineer and proud local who is sharing the message of the strength of Pittsworth Show and the opportunities for women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematic) careers. She’s one to watch in this year’s Darling Downs showgirl competition.
Cattle dogs from dawn till dusk
Some 54 cattle dogs competed at Pittsworth Show moving a herd of beasts through holding areas, gates, races and back into a yard inside a time limit of six minutes. The dogs eyeball the beasts. The beasts eyeball the dog. It’s battle of the bluff. There is a skill and art in developing good dogs, but the bond created is all part of the sport’s appeal.
It can take a couple of years to get your dog up to a good standard and each trial is a question of teamwork and understanding. The art of mustering cattle comes down to a few simple commands. The handler gives them the directions and the dog will eventually understand you want them to go that way, but they have to have the instinct to begin with. Once the pair step into the arena, completing the four obstacles can be stressful, depending on the mood of the cattle. It’s a mighty part of this show.
Congratulations to Paul Wroe and Carrascott Spot on their Open win, Rob Hodgeman and Gypsy on their win in the Novice, and Steve Flatley and Cheeky on their Maiden win.
Olympian wins the Six Bar
Well, you should have heard the roar from the Pittsworth crowd when Tim Amitrano (who made his Olympic debut in equestrian showjumping at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games at the age of 25) cleared the Olympic height of 1.6m in the fifth round of the Six Bar on Killy Billy Castanoo. The ever-impressive (and six months pregnant) Courtney Scott tied for the red ribbon on the aptly named Second Chance, and her brother Cody Ticknell (15) took out fourth after a spectacular full into the fourth rail on the last round after which he promptly picked himself and walked directly for the ambulance. He was fine, in the end, and had become quite the crowd pleaser on his horse with undiagnosed ADHD, Santa Cruz, who approached each fence like it was being timed.
Woodchop comes roaring back
After a twenty year hiatus, axemen and axewomen were back in abundance for the second consecutive year. Jamie Head (35) from Burpengary took our all three championships but Josh Adamson (24) the pro golfer from Buderim and Jack Argent (22) the butcher gave him a run for his money. Campbell Newman (no, not the former Lord Mayor of Brisbane), Brendan O’Donnel (53) the baker from Toowoomba and Eddie Cook (31) – the once third strongest man in Australia weighing in at only 160kgs – were crowd favourites. Axeman Lindsay Hewitt was back after extricating a brown snake from a tree pole hole at last year’s show. He’ll long be welcome in Pittsworth.
Rodeo attracts a rowdy crowd
The line up at the showground on Friday night was astounding, so too the blocks of utes and cars parked around the parametre of the grounds. It was bound to be a big night for many. The sounds of the rodeo announcer, music and crowds billowed out over the town that night and as I drove in to the grounds at 6.45am the next day, half of those utes were still parked there, and nearby where swarms of swags… No doubt plenty of panadol was doing the rounds that morning.
Prime prices at annual lamb sale
Ray White Rural Pittsworth and Ray White Rural Warwick joined forces to sell of the prime lambs that had been judged earlier in the day by Sam Matchett. The beers were flowing mid afternoon, and the quality of lambs was strong despite conditions. Both of those factors, no doubt, as well as the skill of the agents combined achieved a near record price of $456 for one lamb. Yes, you read that number right.
Kate Hennessy’s filly wins Supreme Led
There were cheers and tears of joy for Kate Hennessy whose delightful Australian Stock Horse filly took our Supreme Champion Led exhibit against a strong field of champions from the warmblood through the heavy horse ring, shetlands through to saddle ponies and so on.
Tamara Patch is Supreme Rider, again
It was a worthwhile day out for Toowoomba’s Tamara Patch and her nominations Just a Bit Posh and Arcstan Antoinette winning Supreme Hunter, Supreme Rider (for the second year running), and Reserve Show Hack. They were seemingly unperturbed by the locusts.
Maleficent in full flight
The fancy dress competition did not disappoint. I mean, look at this photo.
All in all, a terrific show. I recommend it if you’re in the Darling Downs around March next year. Thanks for having me, Pittsworth; and congratulations to new president of Pittsworth Show Society Lindsey Lack and his brilliant committee.