A tremendous night that paid tribute to the people who have shown resilience through fire and drought and now flood saw two Showgirls book their tickets to Sydney Royal from Zone 2.
Hosted by the Hawkesbury District Agricultural Association, over 200 guests saw homegrown Eliza Babazogli from Hawkesbury and Emily Quinn from Milton announced as the The Land Sydney Royal Showgirl Zone 2 final winners.
Held at the Hawkesbury Race Club function centre at Clarendon, the two winners came from a strong field of showgirls all with great stories and futures that made the judges' decision very difficult.
Some had dealt with the recent NSW fire threat at first hand and had seen their shows cancelled. Many were working to help in the recovery process, from helping wildlife to getting visitors to return to fire-affected towns.
Milton's Emily Quinn who experienced the fires at close hand was working to make sure her Milton show, that last year celebrated its 150th anniversary, was held again in coming weeks despite her area being badly hit by the fires. She had helped start a new truck and ute feature at the Show that had helped double gate takings. It was her lifelong dream to get to Sydney Royal as a showgirl - and her dream had come true.
Eliza Babazogli had also come from a region that experienced fires and more recently floods. She came from a strong farming background with a keen interest in equestrian competition, a passion for the racing industry in which she works as a sponsorship executive and as board member of Young Professionals in Racing. She is also involved with her partner in Simmental breeding.
A number of special guests attended the gala dinner where the winners were announced including Macquarie Federal MP Susan Templeman and Hawkesbury mayor Barry Calvert.
Mr Calvert told the dinner guests that it was volunteering that was the lifeblood of Australia, and this was exemplified by the work of local agricultural societies.
The Hawkesbury show was the largest regional show in NSW.
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"When we are faced with difficult times we get together and we get through it by working together. Australia is all about working together, and it's all about volunteers," he said.
All the volunteers who were part of the Rural Fire Service or the State Emergency Service had worked with each other to manage fire and flood threats in the Hawkesbury and also work in with the Agricultural Association.
"The Hawkesbury show in May will be something that will help bring us all back together."
As a gesture of solidarity from the Hawkesbury Agricultural Association, all the takings from the night's raffle were split between the three show societies that could not hold shows this year - Kiama, Berry and Albion Park. Berry show president Paul Evert stood up to thank Hawkesbury for its generosity.
The judges for the Zone two final were Agricultural Societies Council president Tim Capp, the 2018 Sydney Royal Showgirl Nikki Dein (nee Gibbs), and The Land's John Ellicott. The winners were announced by ASC vice-president Peter Gooch.
The compere for the event was former Hawkesbury showgirl Olivia Leal-Walker, who was widely complimented for her skills as a dinner host.