Event for generations

Cementing its place in the hearts of most rural folk is Agfest, and Mike Buckby knows how it all comes together. Picture: Ashleigh Force.

Agriculture. Local Mike Buckby, former chair of the Agfest Committee, knows just what goes into such a successful event.

“The idea came the year before at the World Ploughing Championships which were held in Longford,” he said.

Agfest’s inaugural year followed in 1983. Held over two days at Symmons Plains Raceway in Perth, the very first event attracted 111 exhibitors and some 9000 visitors.

The following year the event was extended to three days and by 1986 Agfest welcomed more than 200 exhibitors and 23,000 patrons, leading Rural Youth Tasmania to purchase a permanent site, a 200 acre property at Carrick.

“The facilities are just fantastic. It’s hard to imagine but in the very beginning, we had no flushing toilets for the first two or three years. Parking was always a big job [and] there was no power on site, we had to get generators from interstate,” Mike says.

“You have to remember there was no internet when it started out so if you wanted to compare prices, see the latest in machinery you had to go to Agfest.”

Now with more than 750 exhibitors and anticipating more than 60,000 visitors, Agfest showcases all the latest in agricultural accessories and machinery, four wheel drives, quad bikes, camping gear, clothing, hardware, communication, homewares, gardening products and craft.

Circular Head Rural Youth Club was established in 1987 with Mike chairing the committee.

From the outset, the local club was integral in the running of Agfest with more than 200 volunteers required to see the event to fruition.

“My earliest memory is standing in the middle of Oaks Road directing traffic and thinking my life insurance isn’t enough for this,” Mike laughs.

He went on to chair the Agfest Committee in 1995 and ’96.

“The skills you attain, from public speaking to working with exhibitors, traffic management, teamwork, they are all significant skills you attain by being involved,” he said.

“One thing I really remember is seeing kids getting involved. They might have been pretty shy or lacking confidence to start off with but over a period of those three days taking that initiative and seeing them grow, it’s just great to see.”

Mike was also crucial in seeing Circular Head gain the Agfest public holiday on the Friday. Formerly having Burnie Show day for a holiday, Mike lobbied with Circular Head Council through a consultation process to see the change in the early noughties.

“Considering we are such a strong rural based community . . . the town was pretty much shut down every year with businesses and families attending, it made sense.”

Especially since the consultation period found between a 21 and 30 per cent absentee rate in schools on those days, says Mike.

“To make it a three day event was a big decision. Everyone is a volunteer and a lot still coordinate their holidays with Agfest to be able to be a part of it,” he said.

“But of course, now it is recognised as one of the top events in Tasmania.

“Agfest has really stayed true to its core values of providing a one stop shop for not just rural residents but all Tasmanians.

“You name it, you can see it all in the one place at Agfest. Exhibitors put on some great specials [for patrons] to get some bargains.”

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