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WA’s biggest sheep show Wagin Woolorama back in action after COVID-19 postponement last year

Cally Dupe and Adam PoulsenCountryman
Wagin Woolorama fnance officer Jenna Ferguson, president Paul Powell, vice president Fiona Dawson and secretary Amelia Thornton.
Camera IconWagin Woolorama fnance officer Jenna Ferguson, president Paul Powell, vice president Fiona Dawson and secretary Amelia Thornton. Credit: Iain Gillespie/The West Australian

Organisers of the State’s biggest sheep show are gearing up to celebrate the event’s 50th anniversary next month after last year’s Wagin Woolorama was mothballed due to WA Premier Mark McGowan’s snap COVID-19 restrictions.

It has been a year of preparation and reflection for the Wagin Woolorama committee, which plans to bring the best of the State’s strong sheep and wool industries to the fore on March 10 and 11.

Wagin Woolorama secretary Amy Kippin said it had been devastating to have to cancel last year’s event just 10 days before the celebration, but the committee was looking forward to its return.

“There will be memorabilia around the grounds for people to reflect on, and plenty of merchandise on offer,” she said.

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The iconic Wagin Woolorama was held for the first time in 1972, when, after a trip to the Dowerin Field Days, local resident Malcolm Edward deemed that Wagin needed its own premiere event.

While the town had previously had the Wagin Agricultural Show, its strength was in its Merino sheep and wool industry.

After a naming competition for school children, Peter Jenkin, then aged 9, and Mark English, then aged 10, both suggested the name Woolorama.

They won $5 for their efforts and the name stuck.

Wagin Agricultural Society president Malcolm Edward in amongst the fleeces at this year's Wagin Woolorama. He is pictured next to his own  Champion Merino Strong Wool Fleece. @ 2015 Wagin Woolorama. MARCH 6 2015 Picture: Danella Bevis / Countryman / Great Southern Herald
Camera IconWagin Agricultural Society president Malcolm Edward in amongst the fleeces at this year's Wagin Woolorama. He is pictured next to his own Champion Merino Strong Wool Fleece. @ 2015 Wagin Woolorama. MARCH 6 2015 Danella Bevis / Countryman / Great Southern Herald Credit: Danella Bevis/Countryman

Mr Edward and some other forward thinkers moved the event to an autumn date rather than the previous spring date to avoid competition with other agricultural shows in the area.

The first Woolorama attracted huge crowds and plenty of new innovations, earning the committee the satisfaction and motivation to make each year bigger and better.

When asked what the key factor was in Woolorama’s success, Mr Edward said: “Passion.”

“Be passionate about what you do and get passionate people involved in aspects of the show that they are passionate about,” he said.

For long-time Wagin locals Wendy and Arthur Pederick, Woolorama has “put Wagin on the map” and given it a “point of distinction from every other rural event”.

“It is a chance for the town to work together on a single focus and pull together,” Mrs Pederick said.

“Everyone gets a buzz, we are only a little town but we can pull off a big event like this so well.”

Mr Pederick has been involved with the event since the age of 17 and served as president from 1985 to 1988.

Wendy Pederick and Arthur Pederick in 1989.
Camera IconWendy Pederick and Arthur Pederick in 1989. Credit: Wagin Woolorama/Wagin Woolorama

He said he was extremely proud of the infrastructure at the grounds and, like and many other locals, was looking forward to the opportunity to reminisce and reflect on Woolorama.

“I think the comradery of the committee, working together to make it happen, to build the sheds and building, and to plan the whole concept of an organisation that was able to showcase agriculture is really amazing, “ Mr Pederick said.

For Wagin Shire president and mixed farmer Phil Blight, who runs about 2500 breeding ewes, Woolorama is the perfect opportunity to showcase local farmers’ “enthusiasm for sheep”.

Neither too hot nor too dry, Wagin is characterised by good seasons and a high percentage of arable land that lends itself to high stocking rates.

More than a decade after the first Woolorama, the town built its now-famous giant ram Bart in the Wetlands Park near the Shire of Wagin office.

Standing a seven metres tall, the ram is a star attraction of the town.

After 32 years, the law finally caught up with the Bart and he was tagged with a lightweight plastic tag in his left ear to highlight the importance of the National Livestock Identification System.

These days, Wagin Woolorama is the first large-scale agricultural field day of the calendar year and last year was the first in more than a year after COVID-19 steamrolled WA’s other field day events.

It was last year blessed by lady luck for the second time in 12 months after it narrowly avoided the State’s coronavirus lockdown in March 2020 and February 2021.

Entries were strong in 2021, with 210 Merinos and Poll Merinos, 130 cattle, and 220 British and Australasian sheep on display.

This year’s Wagin Woolorama will be held on Friday, March 10 and Saturday, March 11.

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