Known for her friendly manner, Heather Barrett has kept the Henty Machinery Field Days office running efficiently for 30 years.
Heather received a phone call “out of the blue’’ in 1989 from HMFD chief executive officer Doug Meyer asking if she would take on the position of office co-ordinator.
She had previously worked in the office at Wettern & Co, Henty, for seven years and, as treasurer of St Pauls School Parents & Friends committee, had volunteered in the catering sheds at the field days.
In the early days, Heather was assisted by June Bahr, and Gwen Wood, wife of the late long serving field days chairman Colin Wood, across field days week.
Doug’s wife Margaret would help the three women during the busy time of mailing out exhibitor passes.
Henty CWA member Joan Meyer was in charge of the Country Lifestyle pavilion while Gwen Terlich, Yerong Creek CWA, co-ordinated the ET (extra tent).
Heather handled all the administration work for these two marquees through the office, along with the site applications and replies.
Today, she continues to work on the administration with Country Lifestyle pavilion co-ordinators Lyn Jacobsen and Leonie Kolhagen.
“The field days in the late 1980s was nothing like it is now – it has grown massively over the past 30 years,’’ Heather said.
“In the early days I counted the west gate entry tickets, took care of the banking with writing up the deposit book and driving the cheques into the field days sponsors, Rural Bank, at Henty.
“I had to take care of the wages by writing up the wage book, working out the tax, writing out the cheques and typing out the group certificates.
“Taking care of the accounts involved writing out cheques, mailing and filing.’’
Heather said Doug was particular about tabling reports at board meetings and she would spend hours photocopying hundreds of pages for the directors to read.
She worked with Doug Meyer for 23 years, sharing the office with his large Rhodesian Ridgeback dog.
“We would send the prospectus out in March and once the applications started coming in, Doug would ring me to come in,’’ Heather said.
“I never knew what days I would be working and had to be flexible.
“After the field days, all the gate tickets would be put in large tool boxes and I had to count them to determine what postcode areas visitors had come from.
“One year the tickets were all wet and soggy, and it took days to count them – I was glad when that job was finally computerised.’’
Heather remains one of those rare office workers persisting with a typewriter to type letters and address envelopes.
“I was never keen on computers – Doug used to encourage me to use it but I was always worried about doing something wrong,’’ she said.
“The whole field days has grown so much with permanent buildings and so many more sites.
“It was a change from working as a volunteer and out amongst everything to being in the office.
“But I have enjoyed working with many board members and lovely office staff – 30 years has gone quickly.
“There are a lot more helpers in the office today and I can schedule a break so I can watch the Natural Fibre Awards and speak to exhibitors at Country Lifestyle.
“I normally don’t get to see much of the field days but last year I got to drive around the site in a gator and saw the most of the event I’d ever seen in 20 years.’’
Over the years Heather has visited other field days including the Mudgee Small Farm Field Days, Elmore Field Days, Wimmera Field Days and Fieldays in New Zealand.
The Barrett family involvement extends to her husband Colin who has clocked up three decades volunteering with the Henty Golf Club to operate the bar at the field days.
Once the field days finish each year, Heather works as a presiding officer for the Higher School Certificate exams at Billabong High School, Culcairn.
She is a member of the Henty CWA evening branch, has served almost continuously as treasurer since 1973 and was a state winner in the cookery with a chocolate cake.
“The field days will need to keep growing and going with the times to stay relevant,’’ she said.
“It has been a remarkable change over the years considering where it started from – it is the biggest field days whether others think that or not.’’