In the spirit of ….. THE SHOW MUST GO ON !…. ABC Wide Bay (Queensland) hosted a virtual Agricultural Show on the radio as their breakfast program on Saturday 29th May. The event has been dubbed a radio first. The program ran for 4 hours and included a host of Show favourites. These included the voice of Shows, Ring Announcer Angus Lane, boxing tent promoter Fred Brophy and a vast array of local Show Presidents and regular features at a Show like cakes and craft with the CWA, livestock, a phantom woodchop call, sideshow alley and a Showgirl Competition. In true Show tradition the “Show” had the best of what the Wide Bay community had to offer and was truly an ….of the Community, by the Community, for the Community….. effort.

At 7:00am announcer Ross Kay and Angus Lane unlocked the gates and opened the Show. To the real sounds of bells a drums Fred Brophy rallied ABC Wide Bay listeners to tune into the event for communities whose local Shows were cancelled. It would have been Fraser Coast (Maryborough) on the 2 days preceding the broadcast and Gin Gin on the day of the broadcast with Bundaberg following. The program included interviews with Show Presidents from Fraser Coast (Melinda Wright), Bundaberg (Maree See), Gin Gin (Kerryn Flanders), Proston (Viv White), Gympie (Graham Engeman), and Gayndah (Cameron Polzin), all of whom discussed the impact the closure was having on their Show Society and their community. These were followed by interviews with local CWA stalwart Shirley Baldwin discussing various aspects of the Cookery and Fine Arts Sections, and a caller who added insight into livestock judging providing pointers on preparation, Show craft and a perspective on what a judge looks for.

This was backed up with a phantom 12inch Underhand Wood Chop call by Gavin “Spud” Jones. The chop featured some of the legends of woodchop including the late Don Dingle, David Foster, Peter Dingle, Jake Dingle and Brayden Meyer. Legendary axeman Don Dingle won the closely contested event.

In addition the “Show” hosted a Showgirl Competition inviting entrants from the listening area to participate. From 6 finalists, all of whom were interviewed for the program, judges selected Cassie Simcox as the first ABC Wide Bay Virtual Showgirl. Cassie coincidentally was also named as the 2020 Proston Show girl just weeks before the lockdown.

Angus provided updates from the virtual Showgrounds during the morning, paying tribute to the volunteers who pull the regular Shows together. The “Show” also provided an opportunity to provide a tribute to another significant voice on the circuit, announcer Alain Henderson who had died the previous week, aged 88.

Queensland Ag Shows General Manager was also interviewed to provide a state perspective on what broader effect the cancellation of Shows was having. He highlighted the financial burden that all Shows were facing and the wider ranging impact it was having on others dependent on Shows for their livelihood such as the Showmen’s Guild Members, entertainers, itinerant stall holders as well as exhibitors across all Sections and patrons. It was pointed out that out of adversity comes creativity and we were seeing Online Shows (Crows Nest, Ipswich), Online Competitions and, prior to COVID, the Ingenious Sheep Show (Stanthorpe) as their answer to the lack of sheep due to the drought. All of this was an indication as to how Shows would continue to adapt and use innovation and resourcefulness to survive thus far and would continue to do so into the future.

President of the Showmen’s Guild of Australasia, George Pink provided an account of the devastating effect cancellations was having on his Members and stated that once restrictions were lifted sufficiently Showmen were ready at very short notice to be available to support events. Fred Brophy transported listeners back in time with reflections of what sideshow alley used to be like when there were more tents than rides and how it had changed to what we know now.

ABC Wide Bay Chief of Staff, Scott Lamond said the team wanted to use the theatre of radio to recreate some of the fixtures of the Show circuit to bring joy at a time when local agricultural shows had come to a complete standstill. ….”We used ping pong balls, a cylinder post pack and an esky to re-create the sounds of the laughing clown games you find in sideshow alley” he said.  “The Show is something our audience and our presenters would usually love to attend, so this hopefully delivers a fun and entertaining alternative for our community”. Lucky winners shared in the fun of the fair winning Showbags and being invited to share their Show memories. “It’s something you’ve never heard before, will never hear again and you’ll talk about it for years to come.”

Listeners were encouraged to assist Shows through membership, volunteering, using the grounds attending and competing when Shows returned in 2021. COVID was providing the perfect opportunity to obtain and look at local Show competition schedules to see what was available for them to enter and the time to fine tune the skills to enter and bring Shows back to the community. In our normal busy lifestyles seldom do we have a unique opportunity to see what Shows really do have to offer.

The final interview was with Kallee Buchanan the Producer of the program who stated she had a new found respect for those who do put on the local Show as she said that the effort put into just a 4 hour broadcast was just a drop in the ocean compared to a preparing for a full Show – welcome to our world!!

Overall the broadcast was a resounding success by any measure, it had something for everyone, it showcased the best the community had to offer, it hosted a competition that could only be achieved through the magic of radio and it provided another insight into how communities are adapting to and dealing with this once in a lifetime unique experience we know as COVID.

In recognition and in appreciation of the effort that was put in, the Queensland Ag Shows Board at its recent (Zoom) meeting resolved to make ABC Wide Bay our Honorary 129th Show for 2020. With almost all of our Shows now cancelled they really contributed significantly to the adage that … THE SHOW MUST GO ON.

Trevor Beckingham OAM
Queensland AG Shows
General Manager
22nd June 2020