50th anniversary of the Morobe Show: Lady Barbara Jephcott


Lae, 15-16 October 2011

The first Morobe Show was held in 1959, but on three occasions the Show had to be cancelled. In 1983 Lae was isolated by floods; in 1991 law and order problems caused a curfew to be imposed from 6 am to 6 pm and again it was decided not to go ahead with the show; and in 2009 an outbreak of cholera in the province made it unwise to have a large gathering of people.

This year a huge effort from the President (Mr Mike Quinn), the Councillors, committee members, volunteers and sponsors ensured a vintage show.

The festivities started a week before the Show with a nostalgic Lae Show Ball in the smartly decorated Pavilion. After twelve years of no Show Ball, the Papua New Guinea Police Band was back playing a variety of good music as the guests arrived and throughout the excellent dinner provided by the Lae International Hotel. When the Police Band retired a good dance band appeared, playing for the formally dressed guests until the early hours of the morning. The Belle of the Ball was Mrs Karen Quinn in an elegant black lace ball gown.

The Golden Anniversary of the Morobe Show commenced in earnest on the morning of Saturday 15 October with judging of the livestock. About seventy cattle, mostly Brahmans (Lae is in the wet tropics), were judged by Mr Don Hurrell, assisted by steward John Mok. The cattle came from Ramu Agri-Business’ Leron Plains station, Tru-Kai’s Erap property, local village projects and Markham Farm.

There has been a big change in the cattle numbers in the area with Dumpu and neighbouring Gusap’s cattle paddocks now completely planted with Palm Oil. The sugar is still there. The old Ramu Sugar Ltd is now managed by the largest shareholders, New Britain Palm Oil, which provides the management and the new name. Leron Plains is still stocked with cattle. The overall winner in the cattle section was Ramu Agri-Business. They also won the best commercial exhibit.

Don Hurrell, who was born at Wau, may have been at the First Show in 1959 as a child. He also judged the horses. The days when the European horse women, children and men competed at the show are gone. A few old horses owned by Jan Clark still reside in the stables on the showground, including 33 year old Grey Arrow originally from Dumpu. The horsemen competing were the cowboys from Leron, Markham Farm, Erap and village projects. Their skills and those of the horses they rode were variable, but the best were very good. About forty horsemen competed for Best Presented Rider, Best Horse, Show Jumping and novelty events. Other animals to be judged were pigs and goats.

The numerous exhibits scattered around the arena were interesting and well arranged. They included the exhibit of Coca Cola Amatil, the Grand Champion sponsor of the MDAS over 20 years. Other sponsors and exhibitors included Trukai (rice traders), Bank of South Pacific, Morobe Mining, Inter-oil, Lae Biscuits, PNG Forest Products and PANMEX (traders in food) who were selling sample bags.

The Pavilion was a mass of orchids from Port Moresby organised by PNG Gardener Justin Katchenko. Orchid plants were for sale, as were plants from smaller impressive village exhibitors of flowers and other plants. Michael Dom from NARI helped with the produce displays, including cocoa and vegetables, and Lucas Nathaniel, another young delegate to the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth of which MDAS is a member, was present.

The Coffee Marketing Board had an impressive spread. Betty Higgins, the trout farmer from Kegilsugal near Mt Wilhelm had a small exhibit in the Dept Primary Industries one near the Member’s stand. It was her first visit to the Morobe Show. She said she would come again with a larger display. On the Sunday morning I walked around the outside of the Main Arena to see all the displays, which included good quality simple timber furniture and other simple creative ideas. Food and soft drinks were readily available (I ate Prima sausages for breakfast.)

Highlight of the ring events for the large crowd in the stand around the ring was the performances of the FMX DEMON’s Freestyle Motorcross displays. They are from Sydney but enjoy coming to PNG where they receive such an enthusiastic reception, not just the polite clap in Sydney. They were very skilled and performed six times.

The ring events were varied and some unusual: there was an archery competition, the Cowboys novelty events, a marching competition, the show girl competition included a junior showgirl and of course the sing-sings.

On Sunday the programme was unique: mounted games; the marching competition with groups from schools and other groups; the official opening by the Governor-General, His Excellency Michael Ogio in the presence of the Morobe Governor the Hon. Lukah Wenge; the sing-sing groups from all over PNG including the traditional Mudmen from Goroka, and the Hagen’s with their spectacular head dresses of Bird of Paradise feathers along with other traditional groups. There were more women’s and children’s groups than a few years ago. The showgirls, including a junior girl, were at the front of the arena during the opening. The archer final was held.

A few quiet village cattle were led into the arena to be decorated by the Governor General and I. The Motorcross men gave their last display before a final fireworks display. Where else in the world would there be so much variety from traditional to modern?

The President, Mike Quinn, the Secretary, Rene Cluff, the councillors and all the volunteers—some of whom, including Jan and John Clark, Hans and Tea Meltz and Karen Quinn, have worked in the hot arena for years—are to be congratulated on a great Golden Anniversary of the Morobe Show. As the only person present who had participated in the first Show in 1959 I appreciated the quality of the 2011 Morobe Show.


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