The 2021 Toowoomba Royal Show will be the biggest event of its kind in Queensland since the onset of COVID-19.
A new COVID-safe plan negotiated with Queensland Health will allow numbers through the gates to increase from 10,000 to 15,000 people per day over three days from April 16–18.
However, the Royal Agricultural Society of Queensland (RASQ) will have to sacrifice its claim to hosting the second-biggest horse event in Australia to enable the increased crowd numbers. Organisers have cut equestrian events and entrant numbers by half, from 4,000 entries in 2019 to 2,000 for this year.
“The Toowoomba Royal is the first of the big shows each year and that will be a test case,” RASQ CEO Damon Phillips said.
“The days of just rocking up at the gate and handing over $20 just don’t exist anymore.
“All tickets need to be pre-purchased; everything has got to be online and people need to register.”
Once inside the grounds, however, the public should not notice any change to the usual atmosphere of a country show with sideshow alley, animal and agricultural exhibits, and a big night-time entertainment program planned.
Last year’s Toowoomba Royal Show was cancelled just weeks before the gates were due to open, resulting in massive financial losses for the RASQ.
This year, the anticipation and pressure for the show to succeed are high, after a big community effort to ensure the Toowoomba Royal’s survival.
In October 2020, the Toowoomba Regional Council tossed the RASQ a lifeline with a $150,000 donation to help keep the show financially afloat.
In the same week, Toowoomba philanthropist Clive Berghofer donated $2 million over five years to upgrade existing facilities, as well as adding several new features across the showgrounds.
The traditional People’s Day public holiday on the Thursday will no longer be held, and instead the public show days will be held on Friday to Sunday, April 16–18.
“I think that [there] will be a lot of other shows, particularly in Queensland, that will be looking at what we’re able to do here in Toowoomba,” Mr Phillips said.
“We’re probably going a little over and above what we need to do, but we believe it’s really important for Toowoomba to set the benchmark.”