50 years of Henty field day memories captured on film
Culcairn farmers Max and Ruth Scheetz recalled announcing their engagement during the Henty Machinery Field Days annual dinner.
The year was 1967 and the Scheetz family property was the host site for the field days that year.
Little did the family know how intertwined they and event would become – four generations across more than 50 years.
Mr Scheetz said the family’s passion for agriculture and farm technology drove their involvement.
“Our children all have the DNA of agriculture,’’ Mrs Scheetz said.
The couple were among many Henty Machinery Field Day pioneer exhibitors, committee members and volunteers to recall their memories to ABC Goulburn Murray announcer Gaye Pattison in a permanent historical record last weekend.
Captured on film, the personal accounts will form a social history of the first Henty header school in 1961 to what is now one of Australia’s largest single agricultural events. Last year, the field days drew more than 50,000 visitors to see 890 exhibitors on 1100 sites across the 89ha site.
The documentary will play on a large television screen in the centre of the site over the field days on September 18, 19 and 20 as a precursor to the 50th anniversary celebrations in 2013.
There were stories of snakes in the ladies lifestyle tent, testy exhibitors, a swampy site, flooding rains and long days clearing an old travelling stock reserve to create the present site. But, the highlight for most was the comradeship and community benefits generated by the field days.
Co-founder, past secretary and chairman Milton Taylor was among those to give a first-hand account.
Mr Taylor said the value of the field days to Henty was difficult to measure.
“The first time we hit a crowd of 3000 (and 60 exhibitors) we made headlines in all the local press and we thought we were Christmas,’’ Mr Taylor said. “Now it attracts 50,000 people a year and they’re talking 800 exhibitors.’’
Past chairman Colin Wood remembered working for Milton Taylor in 1961 when the first header school was organised at the Henty showground.
“To see (Milton) set (the header school plan) up every year on the lounge room floor of his house every year was unbelievable,’’ Mr Wood said.
“Today, you press a few buttons and everything comes up on screen.’’
Serving three decades as chairman, Mr Wood worked alongside local farmers clearing the old travelling stock reserve to create the new field day site east of Henty in 1977.
“Development in the first year was weekend after weekend – it was pretty solid but we could see the results happening,’’ he said. “There was a big number of exhibitors at the first field day and they just grew and grew after that.’’
Mr Wood said committee members endured many long meetings, with much work “quietly done at night time”. He said the ground work done by the volunteer members made the field days tick.
“As a town of 1000 people, we watched field day visitor numbers grow from 3000 to 5000, then 10,000 to 20,000 – we have been able to hold it between 50,000 and 60,000 in past years,’’ he said.
“It was set up as an educational field day as well – we endeavoured to keep in front of what was being produced or promoted. We have seen a lot of change in our 50 years but there’s going to be just as much change in the next 10.’’