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Community & Business

24 April, 2023

Labour of love as Royal Show’s ‘living mural’ showcases district’s produce

They’re a traditional exhibition that are a highlight for any visitor to the Sydney Royal, and the local contribution to the district’s ‘living mural’ entry at the show, was again top-notch.

By Emily Middleton

While the Western District Exhibit may not have come home with first place, the contribution from local farming families to the display, goes well beyond the worth of a ribbon. For more than 100 years, the Sydney Royal Easter Show has been highlighting regional produce from various districts in the form of living murals.

Starting with different shows invited to attend to set-up a display, the exhibits then merged into five main areas of NSW and Queensland comprising of Southern NSW, Western NSW, Northern NSW, Central NSW, and South-West Queensland.

“You might have had Gilgandra, Coffs Harbour, and Bourke invited to put-together a bit of a showcase of the produce of the area, but now we have these five main districts,” local Alan Smith said in explaining the unique history of this event.

Mr Smith has been involved with the district displays at the Sydney Royal Easter Show for almost 30 years, and takes great pride in our region’s entry. The living mural is created with produce direct from the region it represents, and each individual item is judged before being placed in the exhibition, he explained.

“Anything from merino wool, crossbred wool, certain types of grain, oil seeds, preserved fruits and veggies, jams, jellies, honey, honeycomb, chutneys, wine, ham, bacon, cheeses, oranges, lemons, apples, cabbages, cauliflower, rockmelons, watermelons, salad vegetables, miscellaneous fruits like figs, avocados, berries, everything you can think of,” he said.

“There’s about 100 different classes of produce, and they are judged on their own individual quality,” he added. He said that it is here that the real time-consuming creativity, occurs.

“Then, all that produce is used to assemble a large, living mural. So, it’s about about 10 days’ worth of work, leading up to the show,” he said.

He added that Gilgandra has had its fair-share of contributions to the exhibit over the years, the 2023 entry, included. This year, the Kilby and Pagan families provided prize-winning grain to be exhibited, as well as different grasses from Mr Smith’s farm. The local Chandler family have also been known for their chaff in previous years, as well as plenty of other produce and grain from other families down the line.

This year’s exhibit theme was all about bees, Mr Smith explained.

“Bees and bee-keeping, ‘Nurture our bees for the sake of our planet’, the wall reads,” he said. Mr Smith added that, after the exhibition has been put-together, the display is judged on the morning of the first show day. While the Western NSW district did not take home first prize for either the display or produce this year, they were awarded third-place for display, and fourth-place for the produce competition.

“With all the floods and rain upon rain, the western district’s produce was just not as great as it usually is,” Margaret Windeyer — a local teacher who has been involved with the design of the Western District display for many years — revealed.

“You can tell looking at this year’s displays, the impact floods have had on produce,” she said. We had a lot of our pumpkins floating down the rivers, but places like South-West Queensland and Southern NSW were okay, the ones with much more produce on show,” she added.

Once the display is together and judged, the people who worked on them put on their best shirts and stand out the front to speak to the public. Some sell produce if it’s available, others just chat to the passers-by.

“There’s obviously a lot of Sydney-based people who are inspired by what we do in these displays,” Mr Smith said.

“They ask us questions, things like ‘are the big stock pumpkins real’, ‘where do you grow all these things’, most people just assume milk comes from a supermarket, but you have to realise milk and cheese come from a farm somewhere,” he recalled.

The displays are a labour of love for the district from which the produce is derived, he added.

The district displays were all vastly different this year, each representing the outlook from the previous year’s harvest. Display themes ranged from farmers working round the clock, to the dogs that we couldn’t live without.

“A huge amount of work is involved in it, and the average member of public don’t realise the long history of the district exhibits.

“People from all corners of the tate are involved, and we only get together once a year, so there’s a bit of camaraderie and a bit of good competition, a few practical jokes over the years. It’s a pretty good team of people we work with,” Mr Smith smiled.

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