By Aleksandra Bliszczyk
The Whittlesea Agricultural Society has cancelled its annual Whittlesea Show for 2021 due to uncertainty around ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.
Society president Erica Hawke said after four months of communications with the Victorian Department of Health, cancellation was the only option they had.
“The decision was completely out of our hands,” Ms Hawke told the Review.
“At our last meeting with Department of Health they were unable to give us any formal clarification for timelines … moving forward.
“The Department of Health have been really quite helpful in the communications we’ve had so far, but they’re just unable to give us any certainty.
“We’ve come to the point now where we’d have to start spending a lot more money putting out hundreds of thousands of dollars getting everything ready for the show and we’re not in a position to do that.”
Now in its 163rd year, it is the second Whittlesea Show to be cancelled due to the pandemic, after society members made the call to cancel the 2020 show in July last year.
Ms Hawke said the dedicated team of volunteers and society members tried everything to go ahead with the event this year, but would now instead focus on smaller events for the remainder of the year.
“On the bright side, we are really hopeful we can run the horse events, education section and Hoof and Hook, so we’ve turned out focus to promote those,” Ms Hawke said.
“Now that we have the glimmer of hope about the horse events, even though they’ll be exhibitor-only, that still gives us something to work towards.”
Ms Hawke said the team was disappointed by the show’s cancellation, but said because they spent most of each year planning for the event, which is one of Victoria’s biggest two-day shows, the work they had already put in could simply roll forward to next year.
“It hasn’t been in vain. We hope that the COVID plan we have prepared we can use for next year,” she said.
“We’re feeling a bit flat, but the committee has been amazing.”
Ms Hawke thanked the supporters and volunteers who continued to support the society.
“We are just one of the agricultural and pastoral societies across Victoria who have been affected by the pandemic … our members are the lifeblood of our organisation, without their backing we would achieve little,” she said.
Ms Hawke said she understood it was a difficult time to ask for more community support, but that without money coming in to the organisation this year it was calling for new members to keep the Whittlesea Agricultural Society afloat.
“To help us move forward we would love some new society memberships,” she said.
A membership is $60 per year, and usually includes member tickets to the Whittlesea Show, access to the members car park and discounted entry in some sections.
Although the benefits are not accessible this year, Ms Hawke said memberships united people into a community.
“The Whittlesea Agricultural Society is much more than the Whittlesea Show,” she said.
Members receive the opportunity to join Whittlesea Agricultural Society council and have voting rights at the annual general meeting. Members also receive newsletters and can be involved in organising other events throughout the year.
“Most importantly for us at the moment, your $60 enables the society to continue to run and will help get us through to next year when we can hopefully run our much-loved Whittlesea Show,” Ms Hawke said.
“You don’t have to be a farmer and you don’t need to live in a rural area; no matter what your skills or abilities are, age, gender or background, we look forward to welcoming you into the Whittlesea Agricultural Society.”
Membership forms are available at www.whittleseashow.org.au under the Information tab.
People can also email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 9716 2835.