Blustering August winds were no deterrent for the Newcastle Stake members as they gathered from as far as Taree and Tamworth, to the Cessnock Showground for the Stake Country Fair last month. With over 600 people coming through the showground gates, the day proved to be not only a fun family day, but a great missionary opportunity – with friends, neighbours and relatives of members also attending.
All age groups were catered for – with sack races, tractor hay-rides, a jumping castle, and farmyard petting zoo - complete with lambs, a calf, Shetland pony and fluro coloured chickens - for the younger Primary children.
A string-donut eating competition, big foot race, and tractor (ride-on mower) pull were all popular with the older Primary children. The tractor-pull was a non-stop event as competitors lined up to be harnessed to a ride-on mower, and then timed to see who covered the designated distance in the shortest time.
The youth and those still young at heart tried their luck on one of the most popular events of the day - the mechanical bull. With the strongest of determination and grip, each entrant held on for all the strength they could muster, as the watching crowd cheered them on. Although the bull eventually ‘won’ every time– the line up of optimistic riders never diminished throughout the day.
Another long line-up was for the popular fairy floss machine. Blue-tinged tongues were the norm among the children as they ate the fairy floss, as well as the popcorn and drinks that flowed freely.
Even though it was a Church event for the members, the Stake Activities Committee - chairman Grant Hamilton along with Conan and Amy Hill, wanted to involve the local community groups as another way to introduce the Church and its members to the wider community.
As a result, the Newcastle District Chess Association were invited to what proved to be another popular event - a non-stop chess exhibition. Champion players from the association pitted their skill against young and old – with one champion playing 12 chess enthusiasts at a time. Some games lasted much longer than others but all were masterfully outclassed eventually by the champions.
The Country Women’s Association (CWA) were also invited to judge the apple pie competition but were unable to attend on the day. There were many volunteers for stand-in judges as more than 30 home-made pies were lined up for tasting.
The quality of pies was exceptional – with Brother and Sister Catton of Salt Ash Branch winning the Open category and 17year old Natalie Paynter of Cesnock Ward also winning a prize for her magical pumpkin pie. Within a matter of minutes the hours of baking and judging were over and the pies disappeared as they became afternoon tea.
Brother Hamilton said the day was worth all the effort to see so many saints enjoying fun times with their family and non-member friends and catching up with friends from other wards and branches. The event provided a great opportunity for members to perform missionary work. Many members invited non-member friends and those who are less active. “I know of one less active family in particular whose enthusiasm for church activity was renewed as a result attending the event”, said Brother Hamilton “the family were welcomed and greeted by many past friends from their previous ward. Friendships were rekindled and invitations extended to attend the upcoming Stake Conference. I know their desire to attend more church activities has increased. This and other similar missionary experiences occurred as a result of the County Fair activity which is fantastic result”.
He put the success of the day down to the positivity and enthusiasm of everyone who attended and the contribution of the volunteers who gave of their time to assist with the various activities. He acknowledged the efforts particularly of Brother John Schroeder who not only donated many of the materials for the event, but supplied and drove the tractor for the popular hay ride all day without a break.
“If the success of an activity can be gauged by the feedback and requests to hold the activity again – I think we’ll need to start planning for next year,” concluded Brother Hamilton.