THE town of Darkan is set to come to life next month when the community hosts its inaugural Darkan Sheepfest on Saturday, February 10.
For some time, there has been a call for agricultural shows to get back to the basics of showcasing the agricultural industry, but more importantly become affordable again and that is exactly what an enterprising Darkan community is trying to achieve with the Darkan Sheepfest.
The event promises to not only celebrate the sheep and wool industry but also promote the local shire.
And also with keeping with aim of being affordable, entry to the event will be just a gold coin donation.
Darkan has a long and proud history associated with the sheep industry and Darkan Sheepfest will certainly recognise this.
West Arthur Shire president and co-inventor of the well-known Harrington Sheep Handling Equipment brand, Ray Harrington, is very excited to see the return of a show in Darkan centred around the sheep and wool industry.
“I have toured most parts of this country and I can honestly say that I think this is one of the best sheep shires in Australia given our soil type and reliable rainfall,” Mr Harrington said.
“Like many districts, we have had some great innovative farmers that have improved and enhanced the sheep industry.
“The development of bugle races in sheep yards, the raising of the boards in the shearing shed, the crutching cradle, VE machine and the jetting machine as far as I know all came from this area.
“However what really excites me is seeing the younger generation coming up through the ranks like the ‘Southern Dirt Young Farmers’ group.
“Their group and groups like them will be our next breed of innovators and events like the Darkan Sheepfest will provide the opportunity for them to get together and start sharing their ideas.”
For those who have little or no knowledge of the sheep industry, the Darkan Sheepfest will have more than enough on offer.
There will be a Sports Shear competition, wool fashion shows, a Merino ewe hogget competition and Old McDonald’s Travelling Farm just to name a few features.
Sheepfest organising committee member and mother of two Jodie King said she had fallen in love with the small Darkan community after relocating from New South Wales.
“Having grown up with sheep all my life, I was lucky enough as a child to attend both small and large agricultural shows from the Royal Easter Show in Sydney, down to the little dusty show that rolled into town once a year,” Ms King said.
“I have such fond memories of these shows but I must admit my favourites were always the small country shows.
“As silly as it sounds, I loved the smell of the sheep and the dust and watching the expression on all the local farmers’ faces as they filled with pride when they lined-up with their best stock at judging time.
“We have continued on with this tradition for our own two girls and attend many shows through my husband’s work, but I hear so many times of families that say even just the cost of paying entry fees at the front gate has meant they have had to stay away – which is just sad, especially for the kids.
“Our aim with the event is to get back to origins of a country show and keep it as affordable as possible and attract families, so this generation of kids don’t miss out on what a real country show is about.”
Ms King said parents would not have to worry about avoiding sideshow alley and buying expensive show bags as there wouldn’t be any at the Darkan event.
“We have steered away from that,” she said.
“But what everyone can expect is to spend a great day out with their family and just be able to help celebrate sheep.”
A big feature of the event will be a Sports Shear competition and the West Australian Competition Shearing Association (WACSA) has come on board.
WACSA secretary Sarah Buscumb said the event would be a great way to champion the role of the shearing team in the wool industry.
“A good quality shearing team is the best asset that a sheep and wool producer can have at shearing time,” Ms Buscumb said.
“A producer takes 12 months to produce a fleece and good quality shearers and shed staff will ensure that the best preparation is carried out and therefore the best financial results are achieved.”
With a strict judging criteria in place that is focused on quality shearing, you are sure to see a high standard of shearing at the Darkan Sheepfest Shears.
“There will be a number of past and present State and national representative shearers and interstate shearers competing on the day, so I encourage everyone to come along and look at some of the best quality shearers in WA and Australia,” Ms Buscumb said.
Another highlight will be the ewe hogget competition and producers are encouraged to enter as there are good prizes up for grabs.
All you need to enter is a pen of 10 commercial bred Merino or Dohne ewes born in 2016 and showing no more than four permanent teeth.
The ewes must be all be owner-bred and can be of any shearing.
Entries for the competition close on Friday, February 2 and more information on the competition can be obtained from Nathan King on 0488 582 455.
Equally excited about the event is local business cafe owners Wayne and Pam Stockley, who can see many benefits of Darkan Sheepfest for city dwellers looking for a day trip to experience the country.
Mr Stockley said there was no doubting the inventiveness of country people and the energy they bring to an event.
“Sheepfest will be a great day out for the whole family and I encourage the city folk to head to Darkan,” Mr Stockley said.
“Simply just for good fun and true country hospitality.”