Free entry key to success
By KEN SAPWELL
ORGANISERS of Murwillumbah's 105th agricultural show were basking in plaudits yesterday following an ongoing resurgence in the popularity of the two-day event. Thousands of people poured through the gates to set new modern-day attendance records, while judges were kept busy dealing with an increase in the number of exhibits in nearly all categories. Even the carnival workers and pluto pup purveyors, buoyed by increased patronage of their rides and stalls, voted it among the best on the circuit, which extends to towns throughout northern NSW and south-east Queensland. President Jenny Glasby and retiring secretary Ian Ross attributed the revival to the efforts of volunteers and renewed community interest partly fostered by the innovative step of providing free entry to the public. Mr Ross, who is stepping down for health reasons after six years at the helm, said the revolutionary decision four years ago to provide free entry had undoubtedly played a big part in the show's latter-day revival. "It had gone into a bit of a lull some years back, but we've been able to get it back on track with the help of a great team of volunteers and the sponsors whose generous donations allowed us to drop the entry fee," he said. "We were the first on the circuit to provide free entry, but since then at least four other agricultural societies have followed suit and I believe have enjoyed similar success." Mr Ross said he was going out on a high note through the efforts of his executive and volunteers like retired farmer Barry Glasby who spent every day mowing the main arena in the two weeks leading up to the show. "It's all about community involvement and this is where I think we've been successful," he said. His views were echoed by show stalwart and auctioneer Peter Smith when he officially opened the show on Saturday, saying he believed that both the exhibitors and the show-going public were proud of the event and wanted it to be the most successful of any show. "It's all about people - those who come to show their wares and those who come to look. "It's everyday folk who spend so much of their time preparing and exhibiting their wares with pride." Those visiting the show also gave the thumbs-up to the free entry policy and the wide range of events which appealed to all ages. First-time Sydney visitors Ray and Lucy Bradley reckoned it was even better than the Royal Easter Show which they attended earlier this year. "The free entry is great, and although it seems nearly as crowded as the Sydney show it is much more compact with just as much going on," they said. And there was plenty to keep them interested. Sideshow alley spruikers reported a brisk trade and were happy that threatening clouds on Saturday delivered only a few light showers. Showmen's Guild of Australia spokesman Terry Nilon praised town sponsors for providing free entry which in turn ensured their attractions were well patronised. "It's been a terrific result and I reckon the Murwillumbah show is among the best," he said. He said the so-called white-knuckle rides such as the hurricane and octopus remained the most popular. The crowds were also drawn to several off-beat displays and events including snake handlers, escape artists and the skills of the Holden Stormrider Ute Precision Driving Team.