IT’S the little moments on the big day that make the hard work worthwhile for the man at the head of the Royal Bathurst Show.
Bathurst Agricultural, Horticultural and Pastoral Association president Sam Farraway, who was recently returned for a seventh term, says the work is time-consuming but there are plenty of rewards when you are running Bathurst’s largest annual community event.
“What gets me from year to year are the passing comments at the show where people will say how happy they are with the atmosphere and the offering,” he says.
Only five previous presidents of the association have now had a longer period in the role than Mr Farraway – and one of them was his great-great-grandfather Sam Williams.
But Mr Farraway says taking on the top position was never part of his plan.
Born, raised and educated in Bathurst, he comes from a family that has been involved in the show for generations.
“As a family, we were always members of the association and attended the show from as young as we can remember.”
About 11 years ago, he says, the show was “seeing some tougher times” and he initially got involved by becoming a sponsor through his Hertz franchise.
“The show and association were having some difficulties. The expectation was not being met for patrons and the Bathurst public and the show was certainly going through a bit of a rocky time.
“It was suggested that I get involved on the organisation's governing body.”
Elected junior vice president in his second year, Mr Farraway still had no firm plans to go further.
But there were more difficulties to come for the show, including a poor reaction to its change of date and a weather-affected event.
After the resignation of the then president and the “majority of the senior office bearers”, Mr Farraway says he and a few others “were the only ones left”.
And so began what he says was the challenge “to essentially rebuild the Royal Bathurst Show to the expectation and standing of what the majority of Bathurstians expected it to be”.
Mr Farraway says there is not one element that makes a great show, but there are indicators that show you are on the right track.
One is the numbers through the gate, which he says should be around 25,000 – including competitors, patrons and commercial exhibitors – over the three days.
Another is the involvement of the commercial exhibitors.
“Coming from a business background, one of the key tasks that I took on personally was to set out to understand how the local business community support the show and what we needed to do to rebuild their support,” he says.
“That took 12 to 24 months.
“But when I walk in now, I see a huge variety of local producers and local business owners supporting the show.”
Having the right mix of attractions and entertainment was also a focus.
“It was incredibly important that we have something to offer the entire family.
“You need a thriving commercial suite of exhibitors because you need to have something for mum and dad as well.”
He says car dealers will sometimes tell him that a customer will come in months afterwards and buy a vehicle that they saw at the show.
You need a thriving commercial suite of exhibitors because you need to have something for mum and dad as well.
Mr Farraway says there was a significant turnaround in gate takings in his first full year as president, and as each year has gone by, the executive has focused on steady growth.
“The executive and myself wanted to make the show a sustainable entity again. We wanted to grow incrementally – not have big ups and downs.”
He says the show’s numbers are now back at the level of the event’s “better times” in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Mr Farraway emphasises that the Royal Bathurst Show is the result of the effort of a lot of people.
“There are hundreds of people - paid staff, contractors, competitors, volunteers ... all these facets that bring the show together and embody what community is about.
“Many hands make light work at the Bathurst Show.”
And as he and the association prepare for next year’s 150th show at Bathurst, he remains as passionate about the event as ever.
“You walk the showground over the three days and see the same people there on Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
“If they come back for three days, I think we must be doing something right.”
Mr Farraway and four others – Jeff Cox (cattle), Brian Seaman (wool), John While (horses), and Vicki Wilson (showgirls and Young Rural Achievers) – have been given honorary life memberships of the Bathurst AH and P Association, which will be recognised at the 2018 Royal Bathurst Show.