Putting WOOL Back on the Table

Darkan Sheepfest poster for 2023 with words "Putting Wool back on the table".

It’s that time of year again! Time to start talking about Darkan Sheepfest! This year it’s all about ‘Putting Wool Back on the Table.’ Please help us spread the word by sharing this post.

A vital driving force of the wool industry are the ones working everyday in our shearing sheds. Shearers, wool handlers and shed staff. Sheepfest is set to showcase their talents and tenacity in our Sportshear and Wool Handling competitions.

man shearing a sheep watched by judges

A Show That is Good for a Town

photo of farmer wearing a pink shirt being followed by seven sheep being herded by a kelpie sheepdog at Darkan Sheepfest 2023

Act Belong Commit Darkan Sheepfest is now more than a sheep and wool show. The event is a testament to the cultural and economic value that a show can provide to a community and town.

Act Belong Commit Darkan Sheepfest was held on Saturday 11th February at the Darkan Town Oval, hosting a record crowd with estimates of over 2,800 in attendance. The theme this year was ‘Putting Wool Back on the Table’ and included the promotion of an online media campaign called #woolworkforce.

Special guest presenters Emily Riggs, creator of South Australian clothing label Iris and Wool, and Steve Noa, owner of The Merino Polo company, both shared their personal stories and passion for wool. Both animated and at times emotional, it made for a unique broadcast around the entire showgrounds.

Photo of sheep parading in the Best pet Sheep competition at the Darkan SHeepfest 2023, judged by Heather Ewert of the ABC Backroads program.
Best pet Sheep competition at the Darkan SHeepfest 2023, judged by Heather Ewert of the ABC Backroads program.

Act Belong Commit Darkan Sheepfest President, Pam Stockley, sees the benefits firsthand of what a local show brings –

“Ironically a locally run rural show is very universal. It brings together a diverse range of volunteers from different ages, cultures, and socio-economic backgrounds. Everyone contributes varying skillsets, knowledge, and experiences to enhance the show. In the lead-up to a show, there is a buzz of energy in the community and a swelling of pride for the town and surrounding shire they live in. A visitor at Sheepfest made the comment that our show wasn’t just about sheep and wool it was about our people.”

An influx of visitors to a town often leads to return visits, generating an increase in economic growth for businesses and in turn benefits their employees and families. Shire of West Arthur CEO, Vin Fordham Lamont, explains –

“A rural show does involve a lot of planning and work to put together, but it is definitely worth the effort. The tourism that a show generates, and the spending tourists do in small towns are invaluable. The recent demand for short-term holiday rentals in our Shire has increased greatly and it is starting to have a flow-on effect with a renewed interest in long-term rentals and business opportunities. Small country shows like Act Belong Commit Darkan Sheepfest certainly have their rewards.”

Darkan has recently been given the opportunity of being highlighted on the Australian tourist map by featuring in the next season of ABC Television Back Roads documentary series. ABC Producer, Louise Turley, can attest to shows being good for a town –

“Back Roads is a very successful television program that celebrates rural life and communities. Many of the towns we visit have an annual show or event that brings everyone together. In often remote places, these occasions are vital to the health and well-being of the community. Sheepfest has become synonymous with the town of Darkan and is an exemplar of how transformative events like this can be. The towns on Back Roads can be very isolated yet after the episode airs, people have been known to travel from the other side of the country to visit them. I am looking forward to the time that Australia gets to see Darkan.”

Farm Weekly Feature

We love the work of the Farm Weekly and love that they love Sheepfest!

Wool will be a focus of the 2023 Act Belong Commit Darkan Sheepfest, starting with the shearing and wool handling competitions, the merino ewe hogget competition, blade shearing demo, and pet sheep competition; and there will be woollen clothing on display at the fashion parades.

Guest speaker Emily Riggs, of fashion label Iris and Wool, will give an insight into the benefits of wearing wool, and will showcase a couple of the Iris and Wool outfits.

The Farm Weekly is a valued sponsor of Darkan Sheepfest

a Farm Weekly magazine open at a double page with an article on the left page with a photo of Emily Rigs and a ram, and on the right page an invitation to SHeepfest with info and a thank you to sponsors.
Double page spread in the Farm Weekly

How to Have the Best Pet Sheep

BEST PET SHEEP IS BACK! Make sure to watch our video tutorial below on how to take out the win!

Judged Events are –

🏆 Best Name 🐑

🏆 Best Looking 🐑

🏆Best Behaved 🐑

Then your pet sheep could be sashed ‘SUPREME PET SHEEP CHAMPION’!

It’s really easy to enter!

1) Just post your pet sheep selfie or photo with your sheep’s name, age and home town on our Facebook post https://fb.watch/ioMFu4035M/.

2) We will be in touch to confirm you are a finalist and invite you to bring your pet sheep to our show.

Great prizes and great fun!

Young Volunteers Get the Job Done

Young volunteers with stencilled wool bales at the Darkan town entry statement

We couldn’t be prouder of some of our younger Act Belong Commit Darkan Sheepfest ‘Wool Work Force’ who have been hard at work over the weekend.

The biggest colouring in they’ve ever done in a day and the itchiest they have ever been!

The filling of our roadside wool bales (albeit with harvest chaff!) is the signal that the show countdown has begun! Thanks to the lovely local farmer who was happy to help out again!

Darkan Sheepfest 2022

two young women browsing a market stall selling pot plants at Darkan Sheepfest

Please join us on Saturday 12 February 2022

Darkan is located 200km south of Perth, in the Shire of West Arthur, within the Wheatbelt region of WA.

At the Darkan Sheepfest visitors and locals spend the whole day wandering around the show, dividing their time between children’s free entertainment and rides, the sport shear merino sheep shearing competition, sheep dog mustering, wool fashion parades and the many market stalls.

Bringing city to country and promoting the sheep and wool industry, is the main aim of the Darkan Sheepfest. It’s a fabulous day out, and a good old country show! At what other event can kids run around together and be safe and happy all day?

What makes Darkan Sheepfest unique is that entry is only a gold coin donation!
Better still, you may even fall in love with the town and our friendly locals enough, to move here!

Yours sincerely,
The Darkan Sheepfest Crew

Press Release: ‘Blue’ Skies the Limit for Darkan Sheepfest Skydivers.

27January 2020

Why would anyone want to jump out of a perfectly good plane? When it’s for a great cause!

Members of the Hillman Farm Skydiving Club Inc are set to skydive down at sunset at Darkan Sheepfest, Saturday 8th February and are planning to go ‘blue’ to highlight and support the ‘Blue Tree Project’.

Jodie King, Darkan Sheepfest committee member and instigator of the special skydiving event is thrilled that it is all happening for the show –

“How lucky are we to live in a community with so much to offer. This is part of why I volunteer as we just love showcasing what we have in our own paddock.  We can’t wait to go blue for the Blue Tree Project and raise much needed awareness for mental health. Our volunteers, shearers and even some of our sheep will be wearing blue at Sheepfest this year.  Hamish Campbell and the crew from the Hillman Farm Skydiving Club with their can-do attitude has made a difficult idea easy. We can’t wait to see them paint the sky blue to remind us that it’s ok not to be ok!

All the logistics have been carefully managed; so, everyone will see the skydivers all drop in. It’ll be a challenging jump for the skydivers used to their usual vast paddock drop-zone but it’s all been carefully put together by Darkan farmer and Hillman Skydiving Club President, Hamish Campbell, who was more than happy be involved with Sheepfest and coordinate the jump. Hamish said:

“Hillman Farm skydiving club can be a great diversion from the pressures of farming, just like any football club.  Skydiving’s such a close international community, it’s really as safe as the jumper decides to make it and it opens a lot of doors and builds networks all over the world – even being in a shire as rural as West Arthur.  We’re really lucky to have the facilities of Hillman here in Darkan and the support we have from the Harrington’s who own the farm.  We would encourage anyone interested to get involved and contact us via our Facebook page “Hillman Farm Skydiving Club.”

As exhilarating as skydiving may be, at the other end of the spectrum is how exhausting mental health is.  Factor in the isolation and the ‘tough’ country façade we seem to still find ourselves in, fixing mental health in the rural Australia continues to be a constant uphill battle.

Kendall Whyte represents the ‘Blue Tree Project’ and is the sister of Jayden, who painted the first tree blue as a practical joke, prior to taking his own life.  Kendall says –

“We appreciate any effort in helping spread the Blue Tree Project message.  Hopefully together we can work to create a healthier countryside.  We want everyone to see the blue trees to remember yet make a difference to prevent others going through the same pain.”

Watching skydivers fall at the Darkan Town Oval, won’t be the first time for some.  Many shearers returning for the reunion, would also pull their footy boots on to fill the local West Arthur Bulldogs team.  The skydivers jump was a feature for the footy grand final held several decades ago. 

Last minute details are being finalised for Darkan Sheepfest, including some great entries uploaded on their Facebook page for the ‘Best Pet Sheep’ competition.  The Shearers and Shed Staff Reunion continues to receive RSVP’s right across WA with some even planning to travel from the Eastern States.  Nominations continue for the Sport Shear and Wool Handing Competitions and the Farm Boot Foot Race looks to be bigger and better than the last.

But for most visitors, whilst all the events are entertaining, being able to spend the day in the country, talking to locals and seeing sheep and wool up close is what they like about Darkan Sheepfest the best. 

All that, and Darkan Sheepfest gate entry is only a gold coin donation!

For further information or other high-res images please contact Karlene Goss at admin@darkansheepfest.com or on 0428 361 366.

Hillman Farm Skydivers more than happy to be ‘blue’ and drop down at Darkan Sheepfest

Photo Credit: Genevieve Cooper – Joy of Colour Media

Committee members, Jodie King and Karlene Goss, with the novel albeit ‘oat-itchy’ roadside Darkan Sheepfest wool bales.

2020 Darkan Sheepfest Supreme Sponsors

Press Release: Darkan Sheepfest to Run Final Shearing Cut Out

The ‘Shearers’ and Shed Staff’ Reunion will not only honour legends of the Australian Wool Industry but reunite great mates.

As a farm kid, there was nothing better than racing home from the school bus at shearing time to see what delicious treats were leftover from smoko. Although, as you got older you realised there was something even better than leftover jelly and custard trifle – the shearing shed cut out! Be it Bobby, Smithy or Jack – the names may have been local, but the stories and the characters could be found in any shearing team in any country town.

Darkan Sheepfest 2020 is extending an open invitation to anyone who worked in shearing sheds within the Shire of West Arthur. This special event is to provide the opportunity for them all to return,
reconnect and remember but more importantly for us to hear their history.

Darkan Sheepfest Committee member, Michael Goss, has been proud to be involved in organising the reunion and explains –
“Riding on the sheep’s back, our history shows that merino sheep formed the backbone of our district. Harvesting the wool required both shearers and shed staff. Over the years there have been hundreds of these people working in the sheds and living in our community. The idea of a
shearing reunion has been talked about by the Sheepfest committee since its first year and it was just a natural progression that we pay tribute to everyone that has contributed to this thriving industry. So, we have settled on the idea of having a simple get together for a ‘morning smoko’
that will no doubt finish off with a cut out!”

This year, Darkan Sheepfest will be held on Saturday 8th February 2020 at the town oval, commencing at 9.30am. The event will continue to maintain its strong reputation as a ‘good old-fashioned grass roots
country show’ and again make the commitment to provide a fun family day out for just a gold coin donation.

Two new events that should attract more participants and crowds are the Wool Handling competition and the ‘Best Pet Sheep’ which ultimately will be sashed ‘Darkan Sheepfest Supreme Champion Pet’. However, a very exciting event involving sheep and Darkan is to be held just prior to Sheepfest and has seen one shearer working harder in the shearing shed than ever before. Josh Clayton will be attempting to break the solo eight-hour merino ewe shearing world record on the 18th January 2020 at South’s ‘Cowrabundie Farm’. Given it will be Josh’s second attempt at the world record, it is testament to how hard-working and determined shearers can be.

Josh elaborates on the motivation behind his record attempt –
“My father was a shearing contractor and we had a sheep farm, so I guess shearing was always going to be an obvious choice for me. My world record attempt really came about working and learning from some of the best in the industry and them telling me that I was good enough and that I should have a go. I did enjoy sport at school and had been in a few triathlons, so the nutrition, training and discipline required was not going to be a problem. But you soon discover that a world record attempt is certainly a team effort and you need a big support crew, I can’t thank them enough. The Souths and everyone I have met along the way, have been fantastic especially my sponsor. I learned so much with my first attempt, so hopefully, I will have a good chance this time around and everyone in Darkan is most welcome to come and see me try.”

The same sentiment of being confident to have a go could be said about Darkan Sheepfest and what it has achieved in the last three years. There is always plenty of hard work and time spent organising these types of shows. A full program has been finalised with the return of popular events including the notorious Farm Boot Foot Race, entertaining Young Farmer Challenge and highly anticipated Sport Shear Competition.

Shire of West Arthur President, Kevin King, knows first-hand the benefits that Darkan Sheepfest will bring to the small country town –
“Shows like these are good for both the community and our Shire. I know that it is a lot of work to organise the event, but to see everyone enjoying themselves on the day and visitors to our town being able to learn about sheep and wool, benefiting our whole industry, it is worth all the

Free entertainment will continue all day and into the night concluding with the ‘Sundowner Baa’, which should keep everyone well and truly happy. However, the committee concedes that not all days are going to be happy and therefore Darkan Sheepfest continues to be a strong advocate and supporter of mental health organisations and projects operating in rural Australia.

Continuing from the Black Dog Ride and Dolly’s Dream in previous years; this year Darkan Sheepfest will be promoting The Blue Tree Project. From tragic circumstances, Jayden Whyte is now the inspiration behind blue painted trees seen around the state and the catalyst to start having open conversations about depression and anxiety. What better place to start having these conversations than at Darkan Sheepfest!

RSVPs have already started to roll in for the ‘Shearers’ and Shed Staff Reunion’. Paul Kirk, ex-local and retired shearer, is planning to come back and see what it’s all about.
Paul comments –
“I had some of the best years working as a shearer and at the time made some really good mates. I’d tell any young person to have a go at working in the sheds at least one time in their life. The work is hard, the money is good, but the stories told are even better.”

Darkan Sheepfest 2020 is shaping up to be one event that should not to be missed!

For further information or other high-res images please contact Karlene Goss at admin@darkansheepfest.com or on 0428 361 366.

Josh Clayton, ready to attempt shearing world record in Darkan!
2020 Darkan Sheepfest Supreme Sponsors

Press Release: Darkan Sheepfest Does It Again and Does It for Dolly

Darkan event demonstrates it’s about more than just living in a community; it is in fact belonging to one.

Darkan Sheepfest was recently held in the Shire of West Arthur, and it is continuing to be the talk of the town.  What set out to be a small event in 2018 that promoted the local sheep and wool industry and tourism for the Shire has now evolved into bringing the whole community together.  This was acknowledged by visitors who wished the same for their own home towns.  This winning formula will now continue for Darkan Sheepfest in 2020.

With over 1000 people having passed through the gate by early afternoon, the Darkan Sheepfest committee could not be happier with this year’s outcome.

Nathan King, Darkan Sheepfest Chairperson –

“Whilst these events do take a lot of time and effort to run, it has all been worth it.  We have a small steering committee but ultimately the volunteering from the overall community is what has made it another success.”

The Darkan Sheepfest program continued with the popular 2018 program which included the sport shear competition, ewe hogget competition and free children’s entertainment, however three new headline events really got the media buzzing in the lead up to the day and in which thoroughly entertained the crowds on the day.

Margaret River resident Ann Wright commented – 

“This is my second time at Darkan Sheepfest.  I have been to many shows over the years and have worked in customer service most of my life and I can tell you that country people are the best kind of people you will ever come across.  If you and your family and friends live in the city, take the time to travel out to these small towns and go to their shows.  I can honestly say, you will want to keep coming back.”

Whilst one farmer who is resting up a hamstring injury may no longer be a fan; the Farmer vs Footballer Farm Boot Foot Race was a crowd favourite.  Dan South (18) and Mackenzie Goss (16) proved what most of the locals already knew – that farmers do really run faster in farm boots.

The Young Farmer Challenge has now officially made a resurgence in WA, having been held at Dowerin Field Days and now at Darkan Sheepfest.  A very popular tradition in the Eastern States, the hope is for other WA towns to now come on board and then perhaps see which town has the state’s best Young Farmers.

Darkan Sheepfest makes a point of ensuring the whole day is about fun and being affordable for the whole family.  But there was one special activity that came with a serious note and a request for a few dollars.

‘Dunk for Dolly’ saw the use of an old-fashioned dunk tank and involved a few very brave local identities volunteering to be dunked, to not only raise money but more importantly to raise awareness of Dolly’s Dream.

A spokesperson from the Dolly’s Dream Foundation stated –

“Amy ‘Dolly’ Everett, aged 14, who took her own life after an extended period of bullying and cyberbullying.  Dolly left behind her parents Tick and Kate and her sister Meg, who are now focused on using the money that has been kindly donated by the community to help prevent other families from going through the same devastating experience.  With the generous support of people all over Australia, they are raising awareness about the serious issue of bullying and its devastating effects and providing assistance and support to children affected by bullying. By supporting Dolly’s Dream, you are helping to prevent the lives of other children being lost and acting as a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

Supporting Dolly’s Dream evolved from the aim of involving more youth in Darkan Sheepfest and they came along in droves.  Generally, most teenagers would avoid situations that make them stand out in a crowd.  The youth of Darkan Sheepfest are to be commended for how they represented not only themselves but also their community.  From pulling on a pair of farm boots and doing a mad dash, to the challenge of lugging heavy farm gates in the Young Farmer Challenge and even parading around in a fair few woollen pom-poms whilst strutting the catwalk – they all did this with their heads held high.

Whilst the youth were well represented at Darkan Sheepfest, so were the older and younger generations.  Miss Laila, 3 years old, strutting her stuff on the catwalk, and Mr Dew, 83 years young, directing traffic to parking areas, made a fine example that it doesn’t matter what age you are – you can always Act, Belong, Commit.  Many comments from visitors reflected that Darkan Sheepfest not only catered for all ages but embraced volunteers of all ages.

Kylie Whitaker, Laila’s mother remarked –

“Having not grown up in Darkan, I love that my children can be involved in this community.   It is so important from a young age to learn about volunteering.   But with that, comes the personal benefits that kids get back from helping others.  It certainly rings true that it takes a whole village to raise a child, in our case this town is helping raise our three!”

As the show came to an end, a town full of locals and visitors all stood around a bar built out of a grain silo, and chatted about the wool and sheep industry, whilst enjoying the sun going down.  Darkan Sheepfest was a day well spent, a night to remember, and left everyone with a sense of belonging as they all headed for home.

For further information or other high-res images please contact Karlene Goss on 0428 361 366.




















  1. The hard-working Dunking Crew Sam Burgess and Leigh Studsor
  2. The youth of Darkan participating in the Young Farmer Challenge and pushing the positive message to Act Belong Commit in your community!
  3. Miss Laila, 3 years old, and Mr Dew, 83 years young, made a fine example that it doesn’t matter what age – you can always Act,Belong, Commit.
  4. Local young farmer, Dan South, winner of the Farm Boot Foot Race and Dan Chia have been running rivals since Darkan Primary Schooldays, but they have never raced in farm boots before!





2019 Darkan Sheepfest Supreme Sponsors