Since 1982, Terry Lee has been drawing from his own personal museum to create a locally-themed District Exhibit for the Tumut Show.
“It’s the centrepoint of the show,” said Mr Lee while setting up in the Pavilion on Tuesday.
The displays are a regular feature at shows across the country, bringing together the best of the region’s produce. Mr Lee’s display at this weekend’s 145th Tumut Show centres around an old wood burning stove, with samples of local fruit, preserves, crocheted rugs, quilts, handicrafts and alpaca-wool hats.
“There’s no plan on this,” said Mr Lee, working the stove into place and adding an antique shelf to one side, “It just comes together.”
With nearly 40 years of experience to draw upon, Mr Lee has every reason to be confident. From a rabbit trapping display in the early 80’s and hand-built models of the Tumut Railway and Butter Factory to displays that honour local fire fighters (complete with a horse-drawn fire cart) and pioneering women, Mr Lee’s displays have grown with the community of Tumut.
“It has changed,” reflected Mr Lee, “Years ago, you could get all the fruit you wanted, but now you’d be lucky to get a case.
“It used to be that you could fill the whole stage with fruit, but it’s not like that now.
“People don’t have the dollars to throw around like they used to.”
Mr Lee, like others, is concerned that the community isn’t participating in the Tumut Show like it has in the past, drawn to other areas by bigger events and cheaper shopping.
“They just follow the bigger towns for better dollars,” said Mr Lee. He’s concerned that the next generation isn’t as interested in preserving Tumut’s history as he has been, but acknowledges there are few people in town with such extensive collections of historic items.
“I’ve collected antique stuff forever. I’ve got hundreds of things.
“People throw it away and it just disappears.”
Among Mr Lee’s most treasured items are an 1886 wheat stripper which was “given to me out of a shed years ago.” He also has a sausage mincer from the same era, carpenters’ tools, old bottles, babies’ prams, historic photographs, Tumut cordial bottles and two stationary engines (from 1918 and 1923) which he has rebuilt.
Mr Lee, who has also been named the Tumut Show Patron for his long-running dedication, isn’t sure how much longer he’ll keep building the District Exhibits. He’s retired or taken breaks several times over the years, but keeps coming back.
“Something’s got to happen,” said Mr Lee in understated country style. “Somebody’s got to do it.”