History lives in spectacle
By JENNY DELL
"YOU are the people of Lismore and this is your story", master of ceremonies S Sorrensen told the massive crowd gathered at the Lismore Showground on Saturday night.
People had packed into the ringside stands to see the final Arena Spectacular performance at the 2004 Northern Star Valtra North Coast National Exhibition. Washed out on Thursday, and having little chance for full rehearsals with 500 performers, the show was an outstanding success.
Celebrating 100 years of shows on the same site, it depicted Lismore and its people in a series of colourful scenes. Horses, cows, cattle dogs, and stockmen; horse-drawn, vintage, and veteran vehicles, three puttering Fergie tractors, went by ? but this was not just a parade.
We saw the men and women from agricultural communities around Lismore in action ? penning cattle, riding fast, handling horses unused to loud music, milking cows, chopping timber. We remembered the victims of war as army vehicles drove by, carrying war veterans and widows; we saw dear Bob Trevan driving an old Ford, his face illuminated with bliss.
An amazing scene had CWA ladies going through the crowd giving away thousands of fresh, buttered scones and jam.
Later, the hippies of Aquarius brought us prettily printed inspirational messages. The Bundjalung Nation was honoured in speech, song and poetry, and in a moving horse event in which each alternate rider carried an Australian or an Aboriginal flag as the horses moved through the ring in perfect formation.
Threaded throughout were the sing- ers and dancers ? mostly Lismore schoolchildren but also featuring the North Coast National Show Band, the great voice of former Australian Idol contestant Peter Ryan, Wally the bush poet, 1920s flappers and 21st century rappers. Putting the entire ring entertainment budget into one event was a calculated risk taken by the Show Committee.
Praise must go to Show president John Gibson for the daring spirit to create a new Show tradition for the 21st century. It addressed the problem of declining numbers at agricultural shows everywhere, by creating a pageant unique to its district, relevant to all who live there, and essentially, performed by locals.
Praise too is due to producer Mark Eady, of the Gold Coast, who spent six months in Lismore getting the feel of the community; and especially to S Sorrensen, who researched and wrote the show on the theme of the people of Lismore ? our diverse community.