Henty field days become another victim of coronavirus

Henty field days cancelled as COVID-19 toll mounts

Coronavirus
HAPPIER DAYS: Retiring chairman, Ross Edwards, and new chairman, Nigel Scheetz, at last year's Henty Machinery Field Days.

HAPPIER DAYS: Retiring chairman, Ross Edwards, and new chairman, Nigel Scheetz, at last year's Henty Machinery Field Days.

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Organisers have taken the tough decision of cancelling this year's Henty Machinery Field Days because of COVID-19.

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Australia's big farm machinery field days still can't get Federal Government emergency aid even though another major event, the Henty field days, has bitten the coronavirus dust.

The Association of Agricultural Field Days of Australasia (AAFDA) is seeking $1 million in survival funding from Canberra to support them through the COVID-19 crisis.

AFFDA secretary, Wendy Franklin, said her organisation was still in discussion with the office of federal Agriculture Minister, David Littleproud, and was still hopeful of getting some help.

She said AAFDA was disappointed the big machinery field days had been excluded from last week's $36 million federal support package for agricultural show societies Australia-wide.

AAFDA represents 21 field days events in Australia and New Zealand

Field days which have been lost this year include Dowerin in WA, Eyre Peninsula in SA and Sheepvention and Farm World in Victoria.

Others including AgQuip at Gunnedah and FarmFest at Toowomba have been postponed to later in the year which could reduce exhibitor numbers.

Henty Machinery Field Days, one of the key events on the annual rural calendar, has become the latest casualty of COVID-19.

The field days have been cancelled twice before, falling victim to a recession in 1970 and 1971.

Henty's chief executive officer Belinda Anderson said the unknowns for large mass gatherings beyond the Federal Government's stage three roll-out of restrictions made organising and planning the event difficult.

She said Henty was the nation's largest field days and outdoor agricultural event with an economic value of more than $92 million.

The field days, which attract crowds of around 60,000 each year, were scheduled for September 22-24.

Mrs Anderson said the HMFD team was now investigating options for a virtual format of the event in September with more information to be released later.

"It has become apparent the field days will not be able to go ahead in 2020," Mrs Anderson said.

"Without a clear path to the end of this pandemic and the full easing of social restrictions, the obstacles to running a successful, and more importantly safe field days, were insurmountable.

"We are a national event and with state borders closed we would disappoint all our exhibitors from interstate along with the many visitors we have who attend from around the nation and overseas.

"This has been a difficult decision for organisers knowing it would disappoint all of our stakeholders, including members, staff, sponsors, exhibitors, community groups and visitors."

VIRTUAL FIELD DAYS?: The Henty Machinery Field Days organising committee is investigating the option of holding a virtual event this year.

VIRTUAL FIELD DAYS?: The Henty Machinery Field Days organising committee is investigating the option of holding a virtual event this year.

Mrs Anderson said the HMFD Co-operative would use the time provided to improve assets to ensure a bigger and better experience at the 2021 event on September 21-23.

"We thank everyone for their support and patience while we deliberated on the decision," she said.

"We are devastated for the region, our volunteers, the 22 community organisations, thousands of exhibitors and tens of thousands of visitors - it will be sorely missed."

The Australian National Field Days at Orange (October 22-24) and Farmfest near Toowoomba (October 13-15) are still proceeding at this stage although officials are continuing to monitor the latest COVID-19 information.

The big AgQuip field days at Gunnedah have been rescheduled for November 10-12

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