Agfest is an agricultural event held over three days in Carrick (near Launceston) in northern Tasmania. 2011 was the 29th annual Agfest field days organised by Rural Youth, and if you haven’t been before, you might want to mark your diary for next May. Here’s a recap of our visit.
Agfest: What to Expect
Obviously the event dictates a country theme. There’s work boots and tractors; farm animals and engines; tools and sheds. Lee Kernaghan even performed in the Central Arena this year. But the 65,000 people attending were offered a large range of experiences for their entrance fee.
If you’ve never seen a sheep dog working a mob of three unruly sheep, you might be surprised by the intensity. With their masters doing the barking (of orders), the dogs are either herding at full pelt, or inching along behind the heels of the sheep, practically daring them to make a wrong move.
The dogs clearly love their work and their handlers, and they’re amazing to watch in action. The equine arena also had a full schedule of action, with the Tas Arab’s costume display a popular show. There was a Clydesdale horse pulling a cart, with some children lucky enough to score a ride.
Farmers attending Agfest have the luxury of comparing and choosing equipment and vehicles all from the one site. Sellers are encouraged to offer special field day prices; which can mean huge savings for anyone in the market for a tractor, say.
Tasmanian farmers also have the chance to meet interstate business owners, who are given the opportunity to apply for a stall each year. Shane and Linda Longbottom of Tatiara Industrial Repairs came all the way from Bordertown in South Australia with a display of their custom made rollers.
Craft Sheds and Retail Avenues
Looking for a little retail therapy? Have no fear, Agfest gives you a multitude of opportunities to spend your money. With Mothers Day looming, the five huge craft sheds were filled with present options, ranging from garden ornaments right through to teddies.
Aboriginal inspired boomerangs; camping and boating goods; arts, crafts and designs of all shapes and sizes. There was even a bathroom in a box! That looked liked a fantastic innovation, and plenty of patrons were inspecting the demo models.
Lunch: Agfest Field Days
With just exhibitors alone, the lunch brigade would’ve been kept busy. Three long days spruiking your wares to so many customers… lots of coffee required, I would imagine! Caterers were spread out around the site and dotted at street junctions. Some vendors just couldn’t keep up with demand.
The Unique Tastes Pavilion was a mini version of the Taste of Tasmania festival held in Hobart during the summer holidays. We chose a tasting plate from Salsa Tapas Wine Bar for our first lunch: mushrooms with marscarpone, fried potatoes, pumpkin and bacon mash with chicken tenderloins. Yum! That was followed by the daintiest raspberry cheesecake from Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm. A delightful bite.
The trophy for the longest queue of the day (even surpassing the ladies toilets!) was won by Frank and Nicky from Betta Milk. Parked outside the dairy expo, the duo were posing for photographs with their adoring fans. I think they’re funny… but not funny enough to queue for that long!
Aside from the feature arena performances and demonstrations, there were other exhibitors offering entertainment to the crowds. The navy reserve for instance, had a diver in a tank playing naughts and crosses with kids on the outside.
There was also a fashion parade in one of the craft sheds, complete with spot lights and smoke machine. High school students compete in the Agfest Artwear competition, with models wearing garments constructed from agricultural material. One fetching dress was made from rubber gloves used by cattle farmers, and another was chicken feed bags held together with binding twine. An interesting concept; not sure if the fashion world is quite ready for that one.
Hardly in the free category at $50 a ride, but the helicopter pilots were kept busy all day taking joy flights over the Carrick region. Up and away and back again in about five minutes, the aviation company had a very hectic flight schedule, running more than one helicopter to keep up with demand.
With 2012 marking 30 years, the Rural Youth committee and volunteers are sure to bring something extra special to the table next year. Might even have to mark Agfest in the Think Tasmania diary again.