FLASHBACK: Jamie Head in the 250mm standing block handicap wood chopping event at the 2016 Rockhampton Show.
FLASHBACK: Jamie Head in the 250mm standing block handicap wood chopping event at the 2016 Rockhampton Show. Chris Ison ROK160616cshow10

BEHIND THE SCENES: Reasons for the Rocky show split

IN THE interests of transparency and to provide a window into their dispute, Rockhampton's Agricultural Show Society CEO Julie Collins provided The Morning Bulletin with a behind the scenes glimpse into their operation, explaining how they offered an olive branch in the form of a slice of land to resolve their impasse with the guild.

An elected member of the Show Society's board since it's inception in 2014, Ms Collins is the only volunteer who works full time throughout the year to see the show realised.

For years Rockhampton's Agricultural Show Society and the Showmen's Guild struggled to reach an agreement about the space, which the Show Society reserved for wood chopping and the guild demanded for their rides and increased foot traffic.

Rockhampton Show Society management committee members in 2015. Dawn Hay (left), Julie Collins and Fionula Fanning are calling for entrants in the Showgirl and Show ambassador competitions.
Rockhampton Show Society management committee members in 2015. Dawn Hay (left), Julie Collins and Fionula Fanning are calling for entrants in the Showgirl and Show ambassador competitions. Chris Ison ROK060415cshow1

"The issue is space, we want to use that space for the betterment of the show and currently we're being restricted from doing that,” she said.

While in Rockhampton, the competitive wood choppers are forced to use sandbags to work around the lack of underground infrastructure to safely anchor their cradles.

Furlyn Barrett won both the 250mm Standing Block handicap and 300mm Underhand handicap wood chopping events at the Rockhampton Show in 2016.
Furlyn Barrett won both the 250mm Standing Block handicap and 300mm Underhand handicap wood chopping events at the Rockhampton Show in 2016. Chris Ison ROK160616cshow12

"They do make it work and we appreciate that but if we can give them the opportunity of making it safer, then that's what we want to do,” she said.

Ms Collins said this particular area of dispute was the only place in the showgrounds free from underground hazards like water pipes and wires which would allow them to approach council about installing the appropriate underground infrastructure.

SHOW COMPROMISE:  Rockhampton Agricultural Show Society has given ground and provided extra space for the Showmens Guild in the disputed area of land.
SHOW COMPROMISE: Rockhampton Agricultural Show Society has given ground and provided extra space for the Showmens Guild in the disputed area of land. Contributed

It was also a closer and more personable space allowing more interaction between the choppers and the visitors.

Unable to reach a compromise over the space, the guild withdrew their rides, weeks in advance of the 2018 Rockhampton Show, opting instead to host a rival show called the Rocky Super Fair at Callaghan Park.

The city was split by the decision with 10,754 people happy to attend the Rockhampton Agricultural Show (down 14,000 on 2017's crowd figure) and the Showmen's Guild claimed an attendance of 30,000 visitors to their Rocky Super Fair.

Luke Hennessy from the Showman's Guild of Australia is struggling to reach a compromise with the Rockhampton Agricultural Show Society.
Luke Hennessy from the Showman's Guild of Australia is struggling to reach a compromise with the Rockhampton Agricultural Show Society. Chris Ison ROK280518cfestival2

"2018 show was not as well patronised as what it has been in previous years but what we did, we did well,” Ms Collins said.

She refused to discuss their financial position as a consequence of the diminished turn out.

Given that the Show Society's board currently has only seven members and a maximum capacity of 11, Ms Collins said anyone who was willing to volunteer and pay $20 to become a financial member, was able to vote or run for a place on the board in their November AGM.

"The way our by-laws work is the current members, unless they resign, can go back into holding their position, however the longest serving members step down and if there's no opposition, they're re-elected, and that happens every year,” Ms Collins said.



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