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Events on the decline in Southern Riverina

Two annual events have been cancelled this year, highlighting a worrying trend for Southern Riverina's tourism appeal.

SOPHIE BURGE July 30, 2014 3:45am

Berrigan Shire economic development officer Merran Socha said she fears for the future of events in the Southern Riverina.

Two annual events have already had to be cancelled this year – Berrigan’s Autumn Festival and Tocumwal’s Winter Festival.

Two other key events for the Southern Riverina have come under threat, highlighting a worrying trend for the region’s tourism appeal.

Lack of community volunteers and difficulty finding sponsorship threaten the long-term viability of each.

The Barooga Professional Bull Riding and Finley Tractor Pull committees have both confirmed their next scheduled events would go ahead, but admit additional years will be a struggle without improved support.

Mrs Socha said all four events are integral to the shire’s calendar of events and help keep the Southern Riverina ‘‘on the map’’.

If lost, she fears the region’s ability to attract visitors will be compromised.

‘‘These events are important as they bring in a lot of people from outside the town,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s also about keeping the region on the map and the value of having our town names in front of the title of the event.

‘‘Successful events can encourage people to return for future events or for holidays.

‘‘There’s also the issue of the hard work and countless hours volunteers dedicate to these events; having successful events rewards them and therefore rewards the community.’’

New interest in the tractor pull after the committee announced it did not have the manpower to host the 2015 pull has so far saved the event.

The Barooga Professional Bull Riding committee is the latest to admit difficulty in continuing to host its event.

In an attempt to boost funds and secure the future of the event it raised ticket prices last year.

The move backfired and led to one of the lowest crowd numbers in the event’s history.

While more volunteers and funding is needed to reverse the losses from last year and retain the event in the future, committee member Dean Miller said support from Berrigan Shire Council has bolstered the event.

Last year it set aside $20,000 over three years to supplement the bull ride.

The committee asked for the remaining $13,000 to be allocated to the 2014 event this December, but was only awarded $7000.

Mrs Socha said council’s decision would ensure there is funding left to support the event’s return in 2015.

Mr Miller is now asking the rest of the community to get behind the struggling event, which is only in its fourth year.

‘‘This year we plan to go back to basics by offering cheap, affordable entertainment,’’ he said.

‘‘We doubled ticket prices last year, however this year prices will be lower at $25 for singles and $60 for families.

‘‘In running this event, we are trying to promote the Barooga township and surrounding areas.

‘‘We will be offering the top 30 best bull riders from Australia and 12 international riders taking on the best bulls.

‘‘We are again offering the local Pub Steer Ride, with plans to offer this to other local businesses.

‘‘This was a huge hit last year and and we have already got two businesses showing interest.

‘‘With better management, we expect between 1000-1500 people this year; much more than last year where between 600-800 came along.’’

Tocumwal Chamber of Commerce president Clive March said the ‘‘scaling back’’ of the 2014 Winter Festival, which was planned for July 5 and 6, was directly linked to a lack of volunteers.

‘‘It’d be fair to say there were communication issues among organisers and volunteers, which is why it basically didn’t run like it should this year,’’ he said.

‘‘People probably don’t realise it is a very lengthy and complicated process to organise a weekend like the Winter Festival.’’

Past Winter Festival committee member Margaret Rumble said the event can attract at least 3000 people to the town each year, and must be put back on the agenda.

‘‘We didn’t have a committee organised for this year and, at this stage we don’t have one yet for next year,’’ she said.

Tocumwal Chamber secretary Terry O’Connor said plans are continuing to bring the event back to its full glory next year.

‘‘We were forced to scale the event down because we didn’t have enough volunteers,’’ he said.

‘‘We hope next year will be bigger and better, as we’ve started to plan things a bit differently.’’

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