Batlow show ‘burnt not beaten’: then the virus hit

Batlow Show Society President Steve Ross overlooking the Batlow Showgrounds where the Show was set to be held on March 28. He said that each year they wonder whether the grass will be up to standard, but this year it was not something they needed to worry about.

It was with deep regret that the Batlow Show Society announced their decision to cancel the 2020 show on Monday, which was scheduled to be held on Saturday, March 28.

The Show Society pulled together and worked hard over recent weeks to make the show a possibility after Batlow was hit with devastating bushfires at the beginning of the year. This years’ slogan, ‘burnt not beaten,’ was a testament to the hard work and determination of those involved.

It makes the situation all the more devastating that even though the Show had made it through the fires and was going ahead despite them, it was inevitably cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Batlow Show Society President Steve Ross said that the decision to cancel the event wasn’t much of a decision – it was unavoidable.

“We waited and we got advice from (the Agricultural Societies Council of NSW), their advice was that if we went ahead we wouldn’t be insured or anything, [or] we could be put in jail by the government,” Mr Ross said, listing the new steps taken by the government to prohibit gatherings of 500 people (100 person limit if indoors).

Mr Ross said that although the Show wouldn’t have had over 500 people at any one time, overall they were expecting to reach that number.

Tumbafest in Tumbarumba last month had a huge turnout, with higher attendance numbers than ever before, and Tumut Show, which was held on March 7, also had a couple of hundred more attendees than it usually attracts.

The Batlow Show Society was expecting large numbers, with so many visitors from far away wanting to show their support for the bushfire-affected town.

“We thought our entries and that might be a bit down,” Mr Ross said, even if their attendance was higher than usual.

“We actually put a ‘burnt but not beaten’ section – if someone had something related to the fires they wanted to enter [they could]… unfortunately that’s no longer applicable.”

Among the prizes in the art section was the Rowland Sinclair Portrait Prize. Before the Show was cancelled the trophy arrived by mail, inscribed with this year’s date. Instead of scratching out the year, the section is going to be run online through the ‘Rowland Sinclair Portrait Prize’ Facebook page – keeping a tiny slither of the show alive this year.

People visiting the Show from out of town would have brought much-needed revenue to Batlow after the fires. Mr Ross said they usually make a fair bit with just the gates and entry fee.

“Money’s not the main thing, it’s just the fact that the show’s not on,” he said.

“After the fires everyone had so much of a loss, even the show committee, [and] we all just wanted this event to happen, focus on this.”

The Batlow Show was advertised on a huge banner at the entrance to town, with everyone excited for the big event after a tough start to the year.

Preparation for the show had been underway for a long time. The Show Society meets for their AGM in September and start official preparations then, but they often meet one month after the show takes place to begin early planning, too.

“So really it’s a twelve month thing,” Mr Ross said.

It was too difficult for the Show Society to postpone the event to later in the year, because with so many shows happening across the country it is hard to find a free weekend.

Mr Ross said there is also the Showman’s Guild travelling around from show to show.

“They’d be doing it tough I imagine.”

With all of the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus, Mr Ross said it would be too difficult to organise some sort of smaller-scale event in place of the show, especially with new regulations being implemented every day.

He said that they are hoping to be back next year, bigger and better than ever, and are keen to get more people on board with new, innovative ideas, especially in the lead up to Batlow’s 100th show which is happening in three or four years’ time.