Town a pop-up metropolis

Michael TraillNarrogin Observer

The tiny southern Wheatbelt town of Wagin, which boasts a population five residents shy of 1500, will become a “metropolitan area” this weekend.

Wagin Woolorama not only brings together the community to showcase the diversity of agricultural life in WA, but will also draw a crowd of more than 20,000.

Last year 23,500 people walked through the Woolorama gates.

“It certainly puts the whole area on the map, puts a date in the calendar as a significant event for people in the greater region and significant boost to the economy of towns in the region,” Shire of Wagin president Phillip Blight said.

“Accommodation (businesses) will make sure every room is available, fuel guys will make sure their bowsers are full and foodie operators will certainly stock up.

“It’s not just Wagin, it’s a significant boost to the outer suburbs of Wagin being Narrogin, Katanning and Kojonup.”

With more than 20,000 people expected to arrive in the region for the event that runs on Friday and Saturday this weekend, Mr Blight joked the town would surpass the population required to be classified as a city.

“Technically, to be called a city is have a population of 25,000, and over the weekend of Woolorama, the 20,000 plus visitors with the population of Narrogin and Katanning added in, we reach that population,” he said.

The City of Nedlands in Perth has a population of 22,918.

Housing all of the region’s visitors during Woolorama becomes a major logistical challenge.

Accommodation in Wagin, including Wagin Motel, the Palace Hotel and Wagin Caravan Park is fully booked out a year in advance.

Visitors have also soaked up all Airbnb listings in a 60km radius of the town for tonight and tomorrow night.

“They come from everywhere,” Palace Hotel manager Memory Hauiti said.

“We’re basically booked out straight away (after each Woolorama), we’ve got about five or six groups that re-book every year, then we’ll have a limited amount of rooms we can give out and I’ll take names and numbers.

“If they fit in, they fit in. If they don’t, they don’t. I actually got a phone call today for chasing Woolorama weekend accommodation, I sort of laughed at them and said you’re way too late.”

Through the Wagin Agricultural Society, residents in Wagin and surrounding towns liaise with officials to house “VIP” Woolorama attendees, including interstate media and event judges.

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