The Varleys dig deep to a Newcastle keep tradition alive

ON BOARD: Jenny Varley and art judge Mark Widdup. Picture: Marina Neil
ON BOARD: Jenny Varley and art judge Mark Widdup. Picture: Marina Neil

The Varley family has a long association with the Newcastle Regional Show. And this year, thanks to the generosity of Jenny Varley, the art exhibition is returning after a four-year hiatus and the show-jumping competition again has a sponsor.

Mrs Varley’s father, David Strachan, was a wool judge at the show in the 1950s and her late husband, Clem Varley, was ringmaster in the 1970s. He was show president from 1984 to ’88 and continued his involvement in show committees, show councils and trusts long after retiring from that role.

Clem Varley (holding ribbon) at the Newcastle Regional Show. Picture: Supplied

Clem Varley (holding ribbon) at the Newcastle Regional Show. Picture: Supplied

The Varley Group sponsored the show and the Clem Varley Memorial Cup from 2012 to 2017. The show-jumping event is now personally sponsored by Mrs Varley and her four children and its name has been changed to the Clem Varley Memorial Show Jump.

“My children were interested in keeping it going. It’s something we discussed as a family and decided to take on,” Mrs Varley tells Weekender

“They grew up with the show. My son Ben will present the ribbon at the showjumping.”

As for The David Strachan Memorial Art Exhibition, it is comprised of six classes: traditional painting; non-traditional painting; local scene; sculpture; young artist and Indigenous art.

“Some of my earliest memories are of being with my father at the show. He was a wool judge and had a wool-handling business in Newcastle which was on Hannell Street,” Mrs Varley says.

“My father also gave me my first painting and started my interest in art, which is why I have given his name to the overall winner this year.

“I’d like the art competition to attract untapped talent and younger people who have talent, for it to be somewhere for them to showcase their work. We want the show’s art competition to be an important part of the region’s art scene.”

Now 78, Mrs Varley still attends the show with her grandchildren. She recalls not being allowed to go on the “octopus” ride as a child and a “fat lady” show that would most certainly be frowned upon today. 

“The show was a big deal back then. Newcastle had the movies, and the Strand that is no longer there, and the Victoria Theatre which is hopefully going to be revamped into something of its former glory. There was also The Royal Theatre which is no longer there. And then there was the show and the beach. 

“We all went to Bar Beach and there was a huge crowd of kids my age. It was there I met Clem, everybody knew everybody really. His sister was the same age as mine. 

“He had a sense of humour and a presence about him which made for a good ringmaster. He saw a lot of changes at the show over the years.”

Mrs Varley believes the show is an important community event that needs fresh ideas to keep it relevant. 

“It only needs suggestions, the right suggestions. Hopefully we can keep improving each year because a lot of people do a lot of hard work to keep the show going.”

The rodeo returns

Country meets city at the annual Newcastle Regional Show which this year welcomes the rodeo back to centre ring after a 15-year break. 

With a new president, general manager and management team, the show has been given a new lease on life and a number of new attractions are running alongside some old favourites.

There will be barrel racing, steer and bull riding at the rodeo followed by a country music concert on the Saturday night. 

A motorbike spectacular created by Graeme Boyd will take over the ring on opening night and star Newcastle’s own world champion Kyle Middleton. 

Motoball – soccer on motorcycles – will also make its debut

At the new emergency services interactive area you can watch the SES and the Rural Fire Service in action, and check out the latest police investigation equipment.

There will be competitions, exhibitions, animals, live entertainment, commercial sites and centre ring events designed to engage city dwellers and farmers alike. 

You can also check out the photographic and art displays as well as handicrafts, cookery, floral art, rats and mice, the model train and woodturning.

Sideshow alley returns, as well as the latest showbags and a range of food and market stalls. 

The three-day event runs from Friday, March 2 to Sunday, March 4. Go to to buy tickets and plan your weekend.

Ultimate Newcastle Show giveaway

The countdown to the 2018 Newcastle Regional Show (March 2 to 4) has begun and this year’s event promises to be bigger and better than ever. Thanks to the generosity of the show’s management, Weekender has a “money can’t buy” prize to give away. Please read the information below carefully. The prize is valid for Friday, March 2, only. The ultimate show prize includes:  

  • One family pass for four people.
  • Four showbags.
  • A meet and greet with Kyle Middleton, five-time Australian Trials Champion who will star in the motorbike stunt show, and the Motoball teams. Motoball is Australia’s newest hybrid sport (7pm Friday night).
  • A Sons of Anzac Motorcycle Club ride for a family of four on Harley-Davidson combinations in the centre ring. All riders must be over eight years old (6pm Friday night).
  • Motorbike merchandise valued at $100. 
  • A Graffiti Hat voucher, valued at $40.
  • A Pboz cowboy hat, valued at $100.
  • 20 show ride tickets, valued at $200.

To enter, send the words “Newcastle Show” to or text “Newcastle Show” to 0427 369 610, including your name, address and phone number. Entries close at 9am on Tuesday, February 27. The winner must be able to attend the show on Friday, March 2, and pick up their prize from the Newcastle Herald’s 28 Honeysuckle Drive office. They will also have to meet a show representative to claim their family pass.


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