The Nowra Show on February 7-8 will be free entry as a way of bringing the community together after the recent bushfire emergency.
Nowra show president Mark Stewart said staging the show was a way for the Shoalhaven community to come together and start the rebuilding process after the recent devastating bushfires.
"We believe holding a free event is one way of doing that," he said.
Already Shoalhaven based show Berry has joined neighbouring areas like Albion Park, Kiama, and Bowral to cancel their 2020 events.
Talking at the Nowra Showground on Friday (January 17) Mr Stewart said after consultation with key stakeholders, including the local Rural Fire Service the 144th Nowra Show would go ahead.
"After considerable deliberation and consultation with key stakeholders including the NSW RFS, Shoalhaven City Council, NSW Police, the Showmans Guild of Australasia and Agricultural Societies Council of NSW we have decided to go ahead with this year's show," he said.
"As a committee, we want to support our community and that's why we are offering free entry.
"To run the show comes at a cost, even more as a free show. We want to recognise the tireless efforts of our RFS volunteers and emergency services during this bushfire and we want to bring the community together.
"Everyone has been affected by these fires in some way, either losing property or homes, or knowing someone who has.
"On top of that this emergency hit us at our peak time on the South Coast, devastating many businesses.
"Not only do we want the local community to come back but the show is for visitors to come back to the coast, we are open for business.
"What a great way to showcase the South Coast, here in Nowra. Jump in the car, you could call into Albion Park for a coffee, get some fish and chips in Kiama, another coffee and food break in Berry and then head into Nowra for the show. Make it a trip to come to the area - we're open."
Mr Stewart said the show's original schedule would run, however with all the devastation the area has endured due to fires, it had been decided to cancel the annual fireworks display.
The major Friday night entertainment will be the popular rodeo, featuring an open steer ride as well as novice and open bull rides.
"On Saturday evening we will celebrate our local emergency service personnel," Mr Stewart said.
RFS members will also undertake the precision tree felling demonstration, prior to the demolition derby and monster truck exhibition.
"All the traditional features of the Nowra Show will be on display as well, highlighting the importance of agricultural, horticultural and industry to our local community," he said.
"Our decision also took into consideration the workload of emergency services including the RFS, who play a big part in our show every year."
He said it was also important for numerous competitors who are trying to gain qualification points for the Sydney Royal Easter Show.
"With the other shows, unfortunately being off, it's important that competitors can have the opportunity to gain points to qualify, not for this year's Sydney Royal, but already they are working on the 2021 qualification," he said.
"Many of the exhibitors and competitors are keen to get on the road."
A number of local farms already have teams of cattle at International Dairy Week in Victoria, with Mr Stewart hoping they can also support the local event.
"It's best for people to make decisions about livestock, it will depend on their own situations but many have indicated they are happy we are on."
And how can the event be free?
"The show is not just two days of the year," Mr Stewart said "we've got committee members who run functions, like the Showgirl Competition and function, there are barbecues and other events throughout the year to make sure we have funds to bring events. It's because of a lot of hard work we are in that position.
"The other thing is our sponsors and we have some fantastic sponsors in the community that support the event. Many of those have been affected by the drought and fires. It was a very careful decision when you are looking at a budget that is always tight anyway, to make the event free but because of that support we can.
"We're also trying to look at the assistance that may be available from state government and local council.
"They are looking at ways to bring people back to the South Coast and I think we highlight that. February is still a strong period for the South Coast and here's an opportunity for local and state government to assist if there is anyway.
"I know a lot of people are hurting and there is big stuff that has got to be done, not just about the next month, it's going to be about the next 12 months or even two to three years."
Mayor to seek Tourism NSW support
Shoalhaven Mayor Amanda Findley congratulated the show society for making a "gutsy decision".
"It was made with consultation with RFS and council to go ahead," she said.
"We all know the Nowra Showground is the heart of Nowra but we also rely on it when we are impacted by bushfire, it becomes an evacuation site, especially for large animals.
"This is a gutsy move and making it free is a cracker of a move. We really do need to get life back to normal as quickly as possible and to offer the opportunity for people to come to things like shows is a really normalising part of life.
"The important opportunity I think exists with Nowra, Kangaroo Valley and Milton shows all going ahead, of a beautiful package to be put together through Destination Sydney Surrounds South and NSW Tourism Board to look at bringing people into rural NSW. We won't be the only places that have small shows. Be it on the North Coast or out west.
"They could do a fantastic campaign to bring people out of Sydney and prepare them to see what actually happens in rural shows before turning up to the whizz-bang of the Royal."
A great chance for the community to come together
Shoalhaven RFS incident controller Superintendent Mark Williams said the move by the Nowra Show Society was "huge".
"The whole fire has hit everybody in the community, whether someone who has had the tragic loss of a loved one or a house, but others within the community like the tourist operators," he said.
"It's affected everyone someway along the line.
"Making the decision initially to keep people safe and keep tourists out of the area during the fire impact was one of the hardest decisions we had to make.
"But it's now past that time. We've got a handle on this fire, a bit of moisture about, we still have a fire season around us, but at this time there is no reason why the show can't go ahead.
"And we see it as a great opportunity for the community to come together, to just walk around the show, talk to each other, sharing their stories of what's been going on over the past few months but also opening the district back up.
"The next big matter for us was to open the area back up to the community. We are open for business again we need the people to come back and support the local community and we need the local community to get together.
"Having a focal point such as the show for people from all different walks of life to come together and get together from all the different districts and villages, and get the healing process underway is an absolutely huge thing."
For further information visit www.nowrashow.org.au or like Nowra Show on Facebook.