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Popular ringmaster returns for Cessnock Show’s 100th anniversary

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It’s fitting much-loved ringmaster John Bridge will return to the Cessnock Show this weekend as it celebrates a major milestone.

Not only is the local pastoral extravaganza back on the city’s calendar after a four-year absence, the 2024 edition – on Friday 23 and Saturday 24 February – commemorates its 100th anniversary.

The Cessnock Show first took place, under the auspices of the Cessnock District Agricultural Association, in March 1924.

The Cessnock Show will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2024.

And, it had been a staple of the community ever since.

That is, until the pandemic reared its ugly head.

The organisers made the tough decision not to proceed in 2021 due to concerns around managing a COVID-safe event under the restrictions of that time.

Then, a lack of volunteers forced its abandonment in 2022 and 2023.

Now, a small but dedicated committee – aged mostly in their 70s – is pushing ahead to make the Cessnock Show’s comeback a success at the showground.

It includes the man known as “Bridgey”, back in the fold after a decade.

“I’ve virtually been around the show all my life,” he said.

“I used to compete when I was younger; then I took over as the assistant ringmaster in the early 1980s.

“Following the passing of the gentleman before me, I assumed the main role for about 15 years.

“Then I stepped away for a while.

“I’ve returned to help rejuvenate the show after they endured some tough years with COVID and the rest of it.

“Plus, it’s our 100th anniversary, so that’s something to celebrate.

“Everyone’s looking forward to it.”

The 2024 program features horse and poultry competitions, bullock yoking, mini trotters, a demolition derby, the FMX Chaos Freestyle Motorbikes, Fizzics Education, My Pet Dinosaur, independent stallholders, food vendors, kids’ rides and amusements, showbags and, of course, pyrotechnics.

“Even though we’ve had a couple of snags along the way, we’re expecting good numbers on both days,” Bridgey said.

“We’ve got a local bullock team taking part; he’s going to volunteer and bring a few in just to show people how they yoked in the day.

“Cessnock MP Clayton Barr will officially open proceedings about 3pm on Saturday, along with the Cessnock Pipes and Drums Band, while the fireworks wrap everything up about 9pm.

“We’ll also have post-splitting demonstrations, the high-flying motorbikes, plenty of rides and amusements, along with our regulars, like Shorty and his dodgem cars.

“There’s a bit going on here, at the moment, with setting up.

“But, the important thing is getting the Cessnock Show off the ground again.

“If we do that, we can make next year bigger and better.”

Bridgey said the future of the Cessnock Show also rested on an injection of new blood onto the committee.

“What we badly need is some younger people to come in and relieve us old folks,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“You know, someone to start leading the event for the next generation.

“I’m even bringing my granddaughter around to do some running for me, off the rings out in the centre, so hopefully she might carry on my legacy, too.

“It’s hard to explain how much the Cessnock Show means to me.

“It has been a big part of my life, from the horses and rides to the general atmosphere.

“You can’t beat it, especially when you’re a young fella.

“That’s what we need to impress upon the kids around here.

“It’s all about community involvement.

“We’ve also sent out material to the schools in the area, in regards to some of the competitions.

“There are free passes, and rides, for the kids to be won.

“So, we’ve tried to include everyone.

“A big thanks must go to our major sponsors Cessnock Leagues Club, Hunter Valley Road Services (NRMA), Jurd’s Real Estate, Mallaby Sheetmetal, Horseland, Ed’s Tucker Box, Bunnings and Cessnock Print Place.”

Tickets are $10 (adult), $25 (family pass) and $5 (kids 5-16 years/pension/concession).

Children under the age of five are free.

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