For more than 100 years, Sale Show has been the pinnacle in showcasing the region’s greatest livestock, equestrianism, floristry, art, craft and culinary talent.

This year was no exception, as more than 10,000 filed through the gates for the 158th Sale and District Agricultural Society Sale Show, with this year’s feature theme of early Australian pioneering skills, trades, and heritage practises, paying tribute to the rich history of Gippsland’s oldest agricultural show.

Wellsford Heritage Farm’s ‘The Living Museum Working Horse Display’ was a popular attraction with farm owners Scott and Vanessa Wells, enthusiasts in preserving pioneering skills and lost trades, providing engaging practices from the past demonstrations across the weekend.

Wellsford Heritage Farm’s 16.3 hands Clydesdale Tommy. Photos: Zoe Askew

Through Wellsford Heritage Farm, located in Wy Yung, East Gippsland, husband and wife team Scott and Vanessa Wells use centuries-old techniques and equipment, such as horse-drawn farming, to grow a sustainable market garden without the unnecessary use of fuel and are passionate about sharing their growing and producing journey, connecting people with ways forgotten by progress.

Mr and Mrs Wells demonstrated how chaff was cut, grain was crushed, and logs were loaded onto carts on farms before the introduction of fuel-powered engines with the help of their two stunning Clydesdales, Tommy and Hunter.

Brett and Faye Kennedy from Raheenrahan Harness Horses, Fulham, bolstered the exhibit with spectacularly restored vintage equipment, including an old grocers vehicle, a milk cart and a Vardo (horse-drawn living wagons).

The horse-drawn living wagon, known as a Vardo, at Sale Show’s ‘The Living Museum Working Horse Display’.

Sale and District Agricultural Society president Ross Jones reported that ‘The Living Museum Working Horse Display’ was well received.

“It has been quite good; we’ve had quite a few comments on how well it is run,” he said.

“They’ve been doing demonstrations; he had the schools kids over there on Friday tying knots, doing things with rope, and all that kind of stuff, so it has been a good one we’ve been able to integrate for people to understand what they used to do in older times and when we didn’t have technology to make things.”

Grain crushing demonstration at ‘The Living Museum Working Horse Display’.

The annual Sale and District Agricultural Society Sale Show is a significant part of the region’s history, spanning decades.

For Mr Jones and the Sale and District Agricultural Society, recognising, understanding and showcasing equipment, techniques and ways forgotten by progress is a way to pay tribute to the Sale Show’s origin and longstanding historical contribution.

“With the Sale Historical Society exhibition in the MacLachlan Pavilion, it brings the whole lot together, and people can start to see our histories here and what the district was like many years ago,” Mr Jones said.

“It [the district] has been built on that agriculture; it may be a little bit different from nowadays, but initially, that is what made the district what it was.”

Sale Historical Society showcased modes of transport from a time before cars, including this 1900 Whitechapel Buggy Circa.

While inadequate infrastructure and volunteer burnout are causes for the decline in agricultural shows across the country, the Sale and District Agricultural Society Sale Show has continued to prevail.

Mr Jones attributes growing attendance, livestock, equestrian and pavilion entrants to the Show’s adaptability and efforts in offering new and exciting attractions.

“You’ve got to change with the times,” Mr Jones said.

“We’ve tried to be modern; we try to keep bringing in new things and try new things that interest everyone, so if you’re a cattle breeder, you can come and show your cattle. If you’re a horse person, you can put your horse into the show, or there’s an opportunity for those who want to enter something into the pavilion.

“Then we’ve got the monster trucks and the fireworks that cater for people who don’t want to put stuff into the show but just want to have a family event. So, I think we cover quite a few bases in what we do.”

Fitzpatricks Fireworks impressed crowds at the 2023 Sale Show Friday Night Carnival.

But Gippsland’s oldest agricultural show is without challenges.

There has been a significant decline in volunteering in Australia, particularly among young people, with Sale Show beginning to weather the brunt of the trending volunteer shortage.

“We’re finding it harder and harder to get volunteers,” Mr Jones said.

“I think it is a sign of the times, it’s not only us who are facing challenges with volunteers, a lot of our groups that we get in to do things, like man the gates and that, they’re also finding it hard.

“I don’t know what the answer is, unfortunately.

“We’ve got a lot of stewards of 35, 40 years ready and wanting to hand the baton over, but there’s no one to hand the baton to.”

Mr Jones anticipates volunteering, or the lack thereof, to be the Sale and District Agricultural Society’s biggest challenge in the coming years.

“If there are any volunteers out there, we would be more than happy to welcome them along,” Mr Jones said.

“We are going along well, but if we could get a few more volunteers, that would be great.”