Taralga Australia Day Rodeo and Campdraft cancelled in 2020

Taralga Australia Day Rodeo 2019. Photo: Clare McCabe
Taralga Australia Day Rodeo 2019. Photo: Clare McCabe

Bull and horse contractors say this is the worst season they've seen, with rodeos across the state cancelled due to the drought and fires.

The Taralga Australia Day Rodeo and Campdraft is the latest to be cancelled, just over three weeks before gates were due to open.

Moruya and Tumbarumba's New Year's Day rodeos were also cancelled as bushfires threatened the areas.

John Davidge manages the bulls for the Rodeo Association of Moruya, which are also contracted to Taralga Rodeo. He has been in the business since the early 1970s and said he's never seen a season like it.

"I've seen some dry times here, but at least then, when you went to Crookwell or Yass there was grass. But the whole state being affected makes it hard," Mr Davidge said.

He and the other manager, Ray Jeffery, have been feeding the Rodeo Association of Moruya's bulls all winter and were getting ready to send them to Taralga, followed by Cooma Rodeo, February 8, and Goulburn Rodeo, February 15.

"I haven't heard anything about Goulburn, and Cooma is another one that's sort of iffy, last I heard," Mr Davidge said.

He will be relying on the highways to reopen after damage from the bushfires to make it to Goulburn Rodeo without taking the long way around, which would mean extra fuel and time.

Well-known rodeo contractor Rick Wilson was also planning on sending his horses to Taralga Rodeo.

"It's not the only one [we supply horses to], but we've had a few cancel over Christmas, which has made it a bit hard for us financially," he said.

Mr Wilson said he spent a lot of money on feed and water, with all the drams dry on his property.

"It's been very hard," he said.

In the 35 years he has been contracting horses to rodeos he said he's never seen a season like it.

"Even the blokes and women older than me are saying the same thing. Usually, you can go to Crookwell - it might be back in other places - but you drive in and it's like an oasis," he said.

Stock contractors aren't the only ones missing out either, with many riders relying on competition money.

Lara Miller looks after all the rodeos in the south as the Taralga Rodeo and Campdraft secretary and the Australian Bushmen's Campdraft and Rodeo Association (ABCRA) southern zone secretary.

She said competing in rodeos is all some riders do.

"You also have contractors, clowns, pick-up men and a lot of this seasonal work is their livelihood. So it takes away from them as well," Ms Miller said.

Money is also provided from local rodeos for the championships at Braidwood, April 4. The event still has the go-ahead at this stage, but Ms Miller said money for trophies would be down.

This year would have marked Taralga Rodeo and Campdraft's 59th year and this is only the second time it's been cancelled, according to committee member of 57 years, Colin Chalker.

"We called it off about 20 years ago because it was too wet, but that's the only time," he said.

The Taralga Rodeo and Campdraft are run by a committee of locals and bring about 2000 people into the town every year, who spend in the local pubs, restaurants, cafes and shops.

The event also donates all of its proceeds, about $10,000 each year, to local organisations including the local aged care and medical centres; rugby, touch football and tennis clubs; and rural fire brigade.

The committee already donated $5000 to the NSW Rural Fire Service this year and there would have been an auction at the rodeo to raise more money for volunteer firefighters, Ms Miller said.

The committee decided in December to cancel the campdraft due to cattle unavailability, but the rodeo was still meant to go ahead.

However, in January, the committee also decided to cancel the rodeo due to the fires and level three water restrictions in place in Taralga.

The organisers were relying on cattle drovers passing through the area for the campdraft. However, when they inspected the cattle, some had eye infections, Ms Miller said.

"They've got to be in condition and fit for purpose," she said.

They needed about 800 head of cattle for the campdraft but couldn't get that number.

"Because of the drought, people aren't running the amount of cattle they normally would. We need around that 800 mark to get a campdraft up and running," Ms Miller said.

While they didn't have any problem getting quality cattle or steers for the rodeo, which are fed year-round for rodeos, the water restrictions and fires still posed a problem.

The organisers needed water to plough the ground before the event and again after the event when it is seeded and watered ahead of Taralga Show, March 14-15. Water would have also been used for dust suppression during the event.

Upper Lachlan Shire Council permitted organisers to use water from its standpipe, but organisers wanted to also buy water to compensate the town's supply.

"The problem is, we've got no water in the creek and the town bores are only just holding," committee member Mr Chalker said. "And it's not fair to ask the locals to supply cattle in this time. I'm also not sure what crowd we would have got with the fires."

There was also a consideration for the Green Wattle Creek fire around Wombeyan Caves that posed a threat to Taralga at the time organisers cancelled the event and Taralga Showground was the evacuation point for the fires.

Not only will local businesses miss out this year, but so will locals who look forward to the big event.

"Everyone misses out, unfortunately," Ms Miller said.

All of the organisers are volunteers and begin working on the event about 12 months out.

Ms Miller started organising the event in February 2019 and said it was a hard decision to cancel the rodeo.

"It's devastating to know you've spent 12 months of work for nothing really and now we've got to cancel everything and return all our sponsorship money," Ms Miller said.

Some sponsors told organisers to hold onto their sponsorship for 2021 but most have asked for it to be refunded.

The Australia Day Ambassador Lunch, usually held in conjunction with the rodeo, will go forward as planned with Australia Day Ambassador Susie Elelman AM at the new location of Taralga Hall.

Organisers will also go ahead with the Taralga Australia Day Rodeo and Campdraft in 2021.

  • Lunch details: Taralga Hall, 12-1pm, Australia Day Ambassador speech, lunch and presentations.

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