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.
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.”