The West

Kununurra show sprang from illicit nectar
Kununurra show: The Melon Olympics. Picture: Wendy Blacklock

Former Kununurra Agriculture Society president Trevor Tough finds it difficult to believe it's been 40 years since the town's very first agriculture show, but memories of the early days of the event make him chuckle.

He recalls how the show's committee once had the bright idea of introducing a home brewing competition, never once stopping to consider that it was illegal.

"No-one ever came to us and said 'hey, you're not allowed to have a still and make home-brewed whiskey and moonshine …'" he said.

Long-time Kununurra identity Charlie Biorac, still renowned for his home-made brandy, became a somewhat enthusiastic judge.

Such bright moments were built out of an event with sombre origins: in 1972, Kununurra's fledgling cotton industry had collapsed and many farmers in the region were battling to survive.

Mr Tough was among those who abandoned the cotton growers' committee and formed a new group to create an event that would lift farmers' spirits and showcase what the region was best at.

Largely horse activity-based, the first show was held at the turf club between the two races at the annual meeting in August and remained there for several years, attracting several hundred people annually.

"The CWA ladies backed it right from the start … they organised all the cooking and sewing and art and all the rest," Mr Tough said.

As society president from 1973 for eight years, Mr Tough was there when the show left the turf club and shifted across to a new block of land on Ivanhoe Road, where it has remained ever since.

Competition between Kununurra families remains hot in the run-up to the event, with serious bragging rights available to those who dominate the sporting, cooking and growing arenas.

Back in the day, beer-soused participants in the annual fundraising auction of cakes, chooks and produce judged at the show were known to bid up to $100 for a pumpkin, Mr Tough said.

Today, novelty events and attractions including the watermelon Olympics, horses versus motorbikes barrel challenge, pet pavilion and cane toad racing have kept the show fresh and ensured its popularity with younger and newer Kununurra residents.

As well as prizes for the best cakes, chaff samples, cucumber and cat, someone will take home the dubious honour of having grown the most deformed vegetable in town.

"When you start these things off, you never dream that in 40 years time it will still be going - you sort of don't think that far ahead," Mr Tough said.

The 40th annual Kununurra Agricultural Show will be held at the Kununurra Showground from 2pm to 9pm on July 13 and 8am until late July 14.

Children under five years go free, with discounts for pensioners.

The West Australian

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