Volunteers and communities benefit from field days funds

Culcairn volunteers Joan Pitson, Diane Allitt, Marion Wright and Shirley McLeish make hundreds of sandwiches and rolls each year at the field days to raise funds for their community.

Wheeling out the cash each day in a wheelbarrow is a clear memory for Marion Wright of her decades of volunteering at the field days.

Marion and her late husband Ray, of Culcairn, are fondly known as the king and queen of hot dogs in the catering sheds at Henty.

In the past, the couple used a wheelbarrow each day to cart the change from the day’s takings in the catering sheds to the bank.

“The bank in Culcairn would stay open and wait for us,’’ Mrs Wright said.

“It’s done differently now with the banks coming to the field days site.

“We don’t handle the money these days – our mental arithmetic is not what it used to be.’’

Marion and friends, Diane Allitt, Shirley McLeish and Joan Pitson, volunteer their services each year to make sandwiches and salad rolls for the Culcairn Pool and Community Group’s catering shed at the field days.

“It can be tiring but we enjoy it,’’ Mrs Wright said.

“During the bigger years, we used to make 140 dozen hot dogs.

“The standard fare was pies, sausage rolls and hot dogs – now we are making more hot chips and chicken schnitzels.

“My husband Ray loved being with the younger folk – we would take our annual holidays at field day time.

“The facilities have changed a lot – we had an old copper and couldn’t control the heat so ended up with plenty of busted hot dogs.

“The health regulations have also changed and these days we have to wear gloves, and a health inspector monitors the heat of the pies, sausage rolls.’’

Shirley McLeish said menus had changed away from sandwiches to include wraps and salad boxes including quiche.

“The most popular sandwich remains chicken, followed by salad or egg, and for the children, plain cheese or vegemite,’’ she said.

Generations of volunteers have been involved in the catering sheds, with grandparents often working alongside their children and grand children in the same shed.

“The younger folk serve at the counter while the men cook the chips and do the egg and bacon rolls,’’ Shirley said.

Around 50 years ago, the Culcairn Pool and Community Group joined forces with the Walbundrie Building Committee, Henty Football Club, St Paul’s Primary School and Henty Anglicans to form Buckargingah Caterers.

The group took its name from the seasonal creek meandering along the northern boundary of the field day site.

Group volunteers worked in rotation out of a narrow, corrugated iron building equipped with a sink and uneven concrete floor.

The outlet was limited to selling just hot dogs and ice creams.

Over the years, the HMFD Co-operative upgraded the food outlets, allowing the menu to be expanded.

“About 13 years ago, the Henty Anglicans could no longer find enough volunteers to continue and were replaced within the catering group by St Patrick’s School, Holbrook,’’ Mrs Livermore said.

This year, the Buckargingah Caterers made the decision to disband, with the individual groups working on their own and rotating around the five catering sheds at the field day site.

The Culcairn Pool and Community Group were involved with catering at the field days right from the start, with Mrs Livermore recalling all profits going towards the pool’s management.

A health selection of salads, sandwiches, salad rolls, vegetarian options and gluten free bread (on request) was added five years ago.

Hot pork and gravy rolls were a recent addition with the pork cooked on site daily.

“This year we will be selling a range of home made cakes and slices, and for the first time, slushies and café quality coffee,’’ Mrs Livermore said.

“In recent years, we have been able to do small improvements to the swimming pool and now with the help of the Culcairn Football and Netball Club, Culcairn Tennis Club and Culcairn Public School, we have been able to share the profits among the community,’’ she said.

“We would not be able to do this without the hundreds of volunteers over the years – many come back each year to catch up with old and new friends.’’

Mrs Livermore paid tribute to the small group of dedicated women volunteering their time year after year to make the salad rolls and sandwiches on the opening day of the field days.

“These ladies are all over 80 – it’s people like these who making it all worthwhile,’’ she said.

“Without all the volunteers working for many different organisations, these local food outlets would not be able to exist, and for many groups, the field days are their major fund raising event for the year.’’