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Maitland Show gears up for 162nd extravaganza

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For 161 years, the Maitland Show has entertained millions of people, young and old, throughout the region.

And, the 162nd edition is promising another opportunity for locals and visitors alike to connect with the agricultural sector… with plenty of fun thrown in.

From Friday 16 to Sunday 18 February, the Maitland Showground will be overflowing with activities, including a rodeo, fireworks, rides, amusements, demolition derby, camel racing, animal nursery, reptile display, Fizzics Science Show, livestock and art exhibits, LEGO, woodchopping, cattle and horticulture presentations, and so much more.

Maitland Show & Showground manager Brett Gleeson. Photo: Rod Thompson

In other words, there’s something on offer for everyone.

“It’s a very full program but also a very diverse one,” Maitland Show & Showground manager Brett Gleeson said.

“The rodeo on the Friday night is always popular.

“It’s been going for about 20 years, so that’s a huge drawcard… and a great evening out.

“On the Saturday (17 February), we’ll have everything from tent pegging to stunt bikes, demolition derby to precision-driving utes.

“Then, of course, we’ll have the fireworks at 9am.

“That’s a perennial favourite.

“Sunday features more entertainment and ring events, as well as rides and amusements, commercial sites and other attractions.

“Often, it’s the animals that bring people in, the horse judging, pig racing and pat-a-goat for example.”

Mr Gleeson admitted the committee was proud of the Maitland Show’s longevity.

“We’re the oldest regional show, and third oldest overall, in Australia,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“We started in 1840, however we lost some years due to the Spanish flu, floods, wars and, more recently, with COVID.

“But, we were the first show back in 2022 [after the pandemic].

“That was very challenging because of all the restrictions and not knowing what we were allowed, and not allowed, to do.

“Thankfully, we got through and had a bumper year.

“We welcomed 31,000 attendees, so we went from 12,000 (in 2019) to that figure (in 2022).

“My first one, as manager, occurred in 2020, with 18,000 passing through the gates.

“I think it helps that I’ve had a background in shows and have a good feel for what people want.

“I’m keen to try different things.

“Not only have we upped the ante in terms of marketing, we’re giving people a reason to be here.

“Before, I don’t think that emphasis was placed on it.

“However, my experience helped, which was the job I was basically brought here to do.

“Year-on-year, the crowds have progressively increased.

“Even in 2023, with all the bad weather, we had 23,000 in attendance.

“That was despite 39/40-degree heat on the Friday and Saturday, and a big windstorm later that evening, which forced us to cancel the fireworks and other things.

“But, people could see the storm coming, so they stayed away.

“We still enjoyed a bumper crowd for the rodeo [on the Friday night], in spite of the conditions.

“And, we’re confident the numbers will be excellent again in 2024.”

Mr Gleeson said he’d noticed a resurgence in rural shows in recent times.

“I think it’s that connection from country to city,” he explained.

“That’s the first thing.

“I believe it’s also about creating memories.

“I remember my grandparents taking me to a local show up in the New England when I was a youngster.

“So, there’s that intergenerational experience.

“The other aspect is value for money.

“For a full ticket, at $20, you have a potential 11 hours of entertainment.

“You really can’t beat it.

“I don’t know of any event that can compete for the diversity [of a show] and you can spend all day here… if you want to bring your own food, that’s not an issue either.

“So, you’re not forking out for anything and it’s family-friendly.

“That’s important to us, making it affordable.

“We’ve kept our prices the same as last year because we know that things are tough out there.

“To be honest, it’s hard for us as there are so many operating costs that we need to cover, too.

“However, we’re still trying to keep it affordable and we’re not here to make huge amounts of money on the show.

“We want to make a little bit to sustain the showground.

“Also, if we don’t look after the people, they won’t come back.

“We’ve lost a few [shows] already around the place.

“So, we don’t want that to happen to the oldest regional show in Australia.

“We’d like to keep going for another 100 years.

“Everything’s in place and it’s a great way to start the 2024 show season.”

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