There’s an old saying that we follow like sheep. Leslie Gemmell has been in the footsteps of her dear father, who was a convener in the sheep section at the Port Elliot Show as early as 1954.
She has been in this same role here for 20 years, and her daughter, Dusty Jones, 29, is following her. When aged just nine, Dusty would organise the displays and trophies, and tell farmers to get their act together to put on what she still believes is the Greatest Show on Earth.
As we gear for the 140th Southern Agricultural Society Port Elliot Show on October 6-7 it is comforting to realise that Leslie plans to do the sheep convening for at least another 20 years. “It just gets into your blood,” she says. “I just love the show; the involvement, and so does Dusty.”
However, Leslie’s dad never got to know his daughter and grand-daughter would emulate his wonderful passion for the showing of sheep, which has been a feature of this show since 1869. He died before Leslie was born.
Leslie has also entered her own sheep, her prized Romneys, like Rally Up (pictured with her), which the Romans introduced to Kent, Great Britain before Christ.
She says these Romneys are “just beautiful”, but one never knows how to tell them apart from the ugly ones. Technically, judging sheep at shows is about frame size, style, muscle tone, structured correctness and balance. Whatever, sweet Rally Up looks sensational. And if you think she’s got that rosy cheek look about her, she had her first lamb a few days after the photo was taken.
“I have shown sheep all over the state and I can honestly say the Port Elliot Show is one of the best organised,” Leslie said. “It offers so much for everyone of all ages.
“This show has a wonderful history, and I guess it all started with the livestock including sheep.”
Agricultural society shows are still thriving across the state, despite the unimaginably cruel drought having an impact. Leslie says the sheep shows must go on because they are so important to the farmers and the market.
The big sheep judging day is on the Sunday, October 7. You can see them being sheared and the fleece being spun. Maybe we’ll also see you around the historic society where time stands still, or where those beasts, the cattle, are, just by the goats alongside the ducks an rabbits. Not many rural shows have showjumping, even a dog show, but ours does.
Of course, there are the pavilions filled with cakes and scones, flower arrangements, craft and countless other displays all meticulously created by young and old hoping to win a certificate saying they are the best at what they do. Then there are those who get their buzz from the sideshows.
Like all of the shows around the state, the Port Elliot Show is a result of incredible work by so many community-minded people.
Leslie says this show is like that; bringing the best out in everyone and living the excitement. The rides have become more daring over the decades, but generally nothing much has changed. It’s still about a gathering of a community, all following each other from one event to the next like Shaun the Sheep, but isn’t it great?
Hopefully, Dusty, and her younger brother, Beau, who also knows a bit about showing sheep, will continue to follow the grandfather they never knew and their mum. Our Port Elliot weekend has never been “just a show”; it’s a tradition epitomised by entrants like our Miss Sheep 2017, Rally Up.
Regular Port Elliot show-goers will revive their hardy annual stories that have evolved in the pavilions and by the parade rings, and not forget the life members and the current volunteer committee people that make it special.
The show is ranked fourth or fifth of all our regional shows behind the big cities like Mount Gambier and Port Lincoln, but ask the sheep convener and she’ll tell you we’ve got the best. And she never pulls the wool over your eyes.
PORT ELLIOT SHOW
Opening times: Saturday 9am-5pm; Sunday 9am-4pm
Admission: Adults $12; weekend pass $20; pensioners (seniors card not accepted)/students $8; children 8-16 $5; children under 7 free. (eftpos available).
Presented by Strathalbyn Agricultural Society on Monday, October 1. Horse Show, Sunday, September 30.
It’s a fun-packed show with all the trimmings of a country fair. There is livestock and heaps of games for the family. Visit Wilbur’s Wildlife Animals, Funny Farms, a whip cracking demonstration, watch dairy milking goats and cheese making, and walk to 20 stops on a surprise trail.
Admission: adults $10; pensioners/children $5; children under 5 free. Family tickets (2 adults/2chikld) $30. Buy your tickets early and save.
Presented by Yankalilla, Rapid Bay & Myponga A&H Society Saturday, September 29.Opening time: 9am-4pm
Special Attractions include Radicool Reptiles, Xtreme motorbike trials, James’ Travelling Magic Show, High Jinks rock wall climbing. Watch sheep being shorn and enjoy the live music and sideshows. There are camel and pony rides, a hands-on animal nursery, market stalls, main hall showcasing the competitive exhibits. See the Aldinga & Sellicks Spinners & Knitters Shorn to Worn demonstration, draught horses,
Yalkin Spanish dancing horses, Fleurieu antique rural machinery display.
Admission: adult $10; children 5-15 $5; Under 5 free. Aged concession only.