WHEN it comes to names synonymous with the annual Mildura Show, Hancock is certainly one that springs to the mind of many.
Alongside the likes of the Bawden, Bland, Porker, Ryan, Rowse, Weir and Zoch families, the Hancocks – represented by current Mildura Show Society president, Roger Hancock, PICTURED – have helped build the Mildura Show into the family-friendly annual event it is today.
Set to celebrate its 70th running in 2017, Roger said that family was very much at the forefront of what has helped make the Mildura Show a long-running success.
“There have been so many local families who have been volunteering over two or even three generations,” he said. “For me, I’ve been around the Mildura Show committee since I was a young kid, as my grandfather was a member, and it’s something that is very much a part of me.
“My grandfather and his brothers used to ride horses, while my mother was also involved, so for me and my siblings it was natural to follow suit.
“Officially I’ve served on the committee since I was 18 – so for the past 20 years – and it’s an annual event that I’m very proud to be a part of.”
Holding the title of Mildura Show Society president for the past two years (he has served in the role for five years in total), Roger said it was the life-long associations developed through the Mildura Show that kept bringing him back year after year.
“You meet people when you’re a kid around the Show, and see them every year,” he said. “Again when you grow up around the Show like my family and so many of other local families have, it just becomes natural to get involved.
“For me the success of the Show comes down to a couple of things. Firstly it’s about fulfilling a passion, and exhibiting what you do regardless of whether that’s baking, riding horses etc.
“It’s also about creating something for the community, and sharing your hobby with the community, and contributing to the community. That’s the main reason I love getting involved, because you’re working to put on a good community event.”
The Mildura Show has relied on that community involvement since its inception in 1947, resulting in 70 successful consecutive annual events.
It was in 1947 that Mr Lem Moebus (the group’s first Secretary) suggested to the Mildura RSL that it sponsor an annual horticultural and agricultural show.
A meeting on August 6, 1947, officially named the event the Mildura and District Returned Servicemen’s Agricultural Show, and from that night, planning for the 1948 event began.
Key ideas arising from meetings of then dubbed ‘Council of Management’ were to encourage and applaud agricultural and horticultural industry, to involve the district’s commercial interests, to create a family-friendly focus, and to include entertainment.
A strong partnership with the Showmen’s Guild was also formed – one that has survived to this day – helping to create the carnival atmosphere of the ‘Sideshow Alley’ each and every year.
A Ladies Committee of 20 members complemented the 30 men on the inaugural Council of Management, with Mrs Doris Porker named the first lady president.
In recent times, that Ladies Committee has been amalgamated into the Show Society, forming one, dedicated group of local volunteers.
Today’s Show would also not function without the 500 individuals who volunteer their time and expertise, working tirelessly all year planning and running the numerous attractions.
On the administrative side, the Bawden, Bland, Hancock, Porker, Ryan, Rowse, Weir and Zoch families (mentioning only some) have given sterling service to the Council of Management – better known now as the Show Society.
In the arena, the Mildura Show has also been well supported by the Donaldson family, the Stirrats, Ryans, Broadstocks, Dr Neville Japp and family and several local and regional Pony Clubs – among a vast number of horse enthusiasts.
Attractions have included the animal nursery, Mildura and District Vintage Vehicle Club, marching girls, trotting races, dog jumping, fireworks display, speed knitting competitions, highland dancing – and an array of ideas that have kept the show fresh year after year.
“Community has always played a part in how the show has looked over the past 70 years,” Roger explained. “A push for me this year has been for local businesses and community groups to come and be at the Show, and to show off what they do.
“The Mildura Show is one of the biggest community events held each year, and we should have all these people and groups as a part of it.
“The Show is also unique in the sense that quite a few groups use it as a fund-raiser.”
Roger said that while the backbone of that first Mildura Show was still present, the event had also been forced to change its ways at times over its 70-year run.
“Mainly because the consumer has changed in that time as well,” he said. “Back in my grandfather’s day the Mildura Show was the biggest event in town. Now there’s something happening every weekend of some description, and we’ve had to change with that.
“While we have always tried to maintain the agricultural nature of the Show, we also have to explore new things. For example this year we have the circus, Black Snake Productions, a world-renowned wood sculptor and stilt walkers to name just a few.
“I believe there should be something to see, and something for everyone to enjoy, no matter your personal preferences or tastes.”
Roger said that, ultimately, he sees the event as a community of friends.
“The Mildura Show is a major fund-raiser for some community groups, an annual reunion for competitors and exhibitors from rural and regional Victoria and South Australia, and a means of bringing horticulture, agriculture and animals to the centre of town,” he said.
“It’s a platform for everyone in the community to put forward their produce, their business, animals, artistic achievements, innovative ideas and new products.
“It’s also a great training ground, for example a six-year-old pony rider begins the lessons of competition and responsibility in 2016, and in 2040 they are competing at world-class level.”
The 70th annual Mildura Show will run from 9am to 10pm daily across its traditional three-day run (October 19 to 21), with more information available by contacting the Mildura Show Society office on 5023 4453.