One of East Gippsland’s biggest events – the Field Days – has been cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis.
The news comes as sporting codes, both nationally and locally, ANZAC Day events and other major events across Australia are either cancelled or postponed as the country comes to grips with the pandemic.
Field days chairman, Ronald Alexander, said it came to the point where the decision was taken out of the committee’s hands.
“For the past few weeks we have been watching the developments of COVID-19 and still thought we had plenty of time up our sleeve to make a call on our event,” he said.
“When government restrictions came into effect it became very clear to us it was not going to be an option to run on our set date of April 17 and 18.
“Our mostly volunteer committee spend 12 months of the year preparing for the field days, so it’s not an easy call just to say it’s off. Then we have our 200 plus exhibitors, many of whom rely on the market and fair trade to operate.
“We also really feel for our food traders and entertainers, who are reporting to us that in most cases 100 per cent of their business has been wiped out in the past week. It’s a tough gig for these people, what are they supposed to do to get by?”
Event manager, Sue-Ellen Latham, said she’s been inundated with calls over the past few days from exhibitors and vendors desperate to know the outcome.
“It’s pretty gutwrenching when you have people in tears on the other end of the phone because they are watching their entire business fall apart in a couple of days,” she said.
“Once Farmworld made their announcement that they wouldn’t be running in 2020, we became the final hope for many of these vendors.
“We understand the importance of the measures the government has put in place, but it certainly doesn’t make it any easier listening to the stories from these people who are feeling absolute despair at the moment and having absolutely no way of helping them.”
“Unfortunately it’s not possible for East Gippsland Field Days to postpone and run again at a later date,” Mr Alexander said.
“The event sits within the Vic Ag Show calendar and so firstly finding a date that is free and at a suitable time of year is very challenging, but secondly many of our traders come to us as part of a roving loop of the country. We would not expect to see them make a trip to Bairnsdale for a single event.
“For example many traders leave our show and jump straight on the boat for Tassie for the field days over there.”
“Once we have time to tidy up what is left of this year’s event and regroup we do have plans in place to look at trying to run a smaller, quite different event later this year,” Mrs Latham said.
“Hopefully something where our traders can have an opportunity to recoup some lost income and our community can come together and enjoy themselves.”