A RECORD 15,000 people attended the 64th annual Morisset Lake Macquarie Agricultural Show at the weekend.
“We just got hammered the whole weekend,” show president Justin Rumore told the Lakes Mail.
Not that he was complaining.
In organising the event, Mr Rumore said he’d taken an optimistic view that the crowd at this year’s show might be twice as big as it was in 2017 when scorching 40-plus-degree temperatures kept hordes away.
“But I didn’t expect the crowd to triple,” he said.
The show’s three-day program was condensed into two this year, and punters seemed to enjoy the tighter scheduling.
A bigger prize purse for the rodeo also attracted more top quality cowboys which, in turn, swelled the spectator numbers to unprecedented levels on Saturday.
And that posed a perfect storm of traffic and parking problems.
“I had one person tell me that when they got off the freeway at Morisset they sat in their car for 35 minutes waiting to get here,” Mr Rumore said.
Also on Saturday night, traffic waiting to get to the showground was queued along Dora Street to the Freemans Drive roundabout and back along Wyee Road to well past the golf course.
Mr Rumore said the show volunteers did their best to provide parking spaces for visitors, on the football oval and, after the equestrian events, on the main arena.
“You could not fit another car in the place,” he said.
When it became apparent that some audience members at the rodeo were having trouble seeing the action, the locals improvised.
“At the back, some of the people couldn’t see, so we did a ute round-up,” Mr Rumore said.
About 40 utes were reversed into position along three rows, and spectators were invited to jump on the back of the vehicles to get a better view.
Mr Rumore said the Kate Clancy horsemanship show during the half-time break in the rodeo was a big hit, as was a whip-cracking demonstration which culminated in the cracking of whips that had been set on fire.
And it wasn’t just the crowds that were up.
Mr Rumore said entries in almost all of the agricultural, photographic and arts and crafts competitions were well up on previous years.
“Last year the pavilions where we had the horticultural events and the photography were closed by 3pm,” he said.
“This year we decided to keep the pavilions open to 7pm, but at 9pm there were still people walking through to see the displays.”
Mr Rumore said the success of this year’s show could be attributed in no small way to the support of the event’s sponsors.
The major sponsor, Lake Macquarie City Council, had increased its financial support for the show tenfold, he said.
“That support enabled us to increase the prizemoney for the rodeo, and to provide other attractions for the public.
“Council’s support demonstrates that they recognise that Morisset Show has become one of the fastest growing events in Lake Macquarie.”
Mr Rumore said he had already begun to recalculate the logistics for next year’s show, in anticipation of another bumper crowd.