Northern Rises Up

"They would have been really proud," Northern District wins for Arthur and Marie

Sydney Royal
Northern District Exhibit co-manager Brad James in front of the display with Arthur and Marie Johns' grandson Brodie Johns.

Northern District Exhibit co-manager Brad James in front of the display with Arthur and Marie Johns' grandson Brodie Johns.


The Northern Court's win in the District Exhibits is a tribute to their long-serving stalwarts.


The Northern District has won the 2019 Sydney Royal Show's District Exhibits competition for both their produce and display named 'Rising through Drought,' designed by Gary Coleman.

The District Exhibits have been displaying produce from five regions across the state for close to 200 years and in the last 10 years the Northern District has won the overall competition seven times.

But this year's win was particularly poignant because their display was in part a tribute to their stalwart manager Arthur Johns and his wife Marie, who died on the same day, last year.

Arthur Johns led the Northern District's success for close to 20 years, Marie always working hard alongside him. This year was the Northern Court's first without them.

Co-manager Brad James said it was important that Arthur and Marie's tireless contribution was recognised within the exhibit with their photos part of the display.

"We all wanted to put together something that would honor their memories, make the district proud, make the people who donate their produce proud of the fact that they've grown product to do something for Arthur and Marie," Mr James said.

Mr James said the exhibit's theme of rising through the adversity of drought was reflected in the resilience shown by their team this year, in particular Arthur and Marie's grandson, Brodie.

"Brodie has really stepped up to the mark, as true country people do, and through his efforts he wanted to demonstrate that the Johns family can work through adversity as much as the farmers can work through the adversity to produce their products," Mr James said.

Brodie Johns said Arthur and Marie dedicated their lives to the district exhibits.

"It was everyday, constantly, they had an office set up for it, they were always thinking about the exhibit, it was their number one priority pretty much," Mr Johns said.

"They would have been really proud of the effort we've put in and how we've coped without them here, we've had to figure it out on the way but we got there."

The Northern District was given a total score of 9,551.23 for the produce component of the competition, coming in ahead of last year's winners, South East Queensland, who were given a total of score of 9,541.97.

The Northern District won categories including the heaviest pumpkin and best sorghum grain.

In third position was the Southern District who particularly impressed with their grains this year, named champion in wheat, barley, pulses and oats categories.

Jim Higman from the Southern Court said the grains were the best he'd seen during his time with district.

South East Queensland won the People's Choice Award. Pictured, manager Col Dabbelsteine with Paul and Kylie Hillier.

South East Queensland won the People's Choice Award. Pictured, manager Col Dabbelsteine with Paul and Kylie Hillier.

"You reap the awards and search for the best, which is what we try and do every year but this year we've done very, very well with our grains, it's the highlight of our exhibit," Mr Higman said.

This year 4125 people voted in the People's Choice Award with the most popular exhibit, South East Queensland's display, ''Farmers Diversify - Towns Survive," receiving 1247 votes.

South East Queensland's manager Col Dabbelsteine said they chose their theme, which featured farm co-ops, accommodation and wedding venues, because one of the big challenges in Australia is the survival of country towns.

"To continue now, primary producers have to diversify and look for alternatives," Mr Dabbelsteine said.

In second place for the People's Choice was the Central District for their display, "Helping Hands Across the Nation," which thanked the public for their support during the drought.

Although the Central District had great success with the People's Choice they made the difficult call not to enter the main competition because they were not able to source enough produce with their region badly hit by drought.

Chief Organiser of the Central District, Peter Rainger, said despite not entering they still felt it was important to put up a display.

"Having a display here keeps us in the whole circle of works and we'll make a decision about whether we enter the competition in 2020 at the end of the year, when we know what produce is available," Mr Rainger said.

Drought was a common theme across several of the districts' displays, the Western District exhibit named 'Water is Life'.

Graham Paton from the Western Court said they wanted to make people aware of how water is divvied up in NSW, displaying statistics on water usage from the two rivers in their district, the Macquarie and Lachlan with irrigation below environmental flow.

"We wanted to get the city people to understand what the situation is out in the Western areas," Mr Paton said.

"It's very, very dry out there, it's unbelievable and devastating in some parts".

Mr Paton said their team had travelled over 40,000 kilometres trying to source produce for the exhibit, but said people had been incredibly generous in donating produce.

The District Exhibits will celebrate their 200th anniversary in 2022 and are on display in the Woolworths Fresh Food dome until the end of the Sydney Royal Show.


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