Newcastle Regional Show was once NSW’s number one show, outside the Sydney Royal. That was only a few years ago. Many factors have contributed to our show losing this title and now a few outer-Sydney shows – Castle Hill, Camden and Hawkesbury – have crept past Newcastle. Our vision is to be NSW’s number one regional show within five years.
We have lost the title for three main reasons. Firstly, the loss of ownership and management of the Newcastle Showground; this has taken away the show association’s alternative income sources, other than the show itself, around $50,000 every year for the past nine years. Secondly, forgoing the public holiday costs the association around $130,000 in lost gate takings each year. Thirdly, three consecutive years of wet weather, it rained on our show in 2012, ’13 and ‘14. We can control most things but not the weather nor the state government.
Where we can take action, we have. We listened to showgoers. This year, our gate prices have dropped and pre-sale tickets are the cheapest they have ever been. Analysis of the gate prices of every show in NSW, confirms that Newcastle is smack in the middle. Our gate prices are $15 an adult, $10 a child and $12 a concession and online pre-sale tickets are $12 adult, $8 child and $10 concession.
We have delivered what people said they wanted. From the traditional experiences of interacting with animals, to the showbags and rides and a variety of competitions – everything from cakes, jams and pickles to livestock parading and judging and fence post splitting. Others wanted to see the displays and exhibitions such as floral art and photography. Then there were those who wanted to be entertained with music, rides, precision driving and the fireworks finale. What they all had in common was that everyone wanted a memorable and enjoyable time.
There are some myths about the show that need to be dispelled. The show association does not set the prices of the rides, amusements, food or commercial goods. This is the prerogative of the respective vendors. The show’s workforce is 98 per cent voluntary. We only have five paid part-time employees, the majority of the work is done by more than 200 volunteers.
Then there is the debate that the income generated by the show leaves the Newcastle area. Yes, some does, but the vast majority stays locally. Most of our commercial exhibitors are local businesses as are many of the Showmen’s Guild members, who provide the rides, attractions and amusements. These guild members provide rides and amusements to shows nationally. It is their business and in most cases successful generational family businesses, which invest considerable dollars in their assets.
All the Newcastle Show Association asks for is a fair go. A fair go from businesses that have benefited from not having a public holiday. Business can support the show in many ways and at the very least by shouting staff tickets to this year’s event. A fair go from the state government that took this community asset from the people of Newcastle without providing compensation.
There will be a Newcastle Regional Show in 2017, the association and volunteers have worked hard to meet showgoers’ requests. However, it is only with business, government and community support, there will be a Newcastle Regional Show beyond 2017. With a fair go, we can realise our vision and be number one again.