Katie Clark, 21, from the Gold Coast, with two EKKA strawberry ice-creams, Brisbane Showgrounds, Bowen Hills. Photographer: Liam Kidston.
Katie Clark, 21, from the Gold Coast, with two EKKA strawberry ice-creams, Brisbane Showgrounds, Bowen Hills. Photographer: Liam Kidston.

Organisers make call to cancel Ekka 2020

IT'S the biggest and most-loved social event on the calendar, but organisers of the Royal Queensland Show (Ekka) have made the heartbreaking decision to cancel this year's festivities due to social distancing measures and public gathering restrictions implemented due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It's the third time in the Ekka's 143-year history that the show has been cancelled. It was previously cancelled in 1919 due to the Spanish flu epidemic and in 1942 when the grounds were used as a World War II staging depot.

RNA chief executive Brendan Christou said ensuring the health and safety of the Ekka community and the general public was paramount.

"This is the biggest worldwide health crisis in generations; these are very challenging and unprecedented times, and nothing is more important than ensuring the best outcome for public health is achieved,'' he said.

Mr Christou said it was important to make the decision to cancel the Ekka early as many exhibitors and competitors spend months preparing for the show and getting entries ready, plus the hundreds of volunteers who generously give up their time each year, many of whom take annual leave.

"They are incredibly passionate and supportive of the show and we wanted to give them as much notice as possible,'' he said.

"We are also very mindful of our farming families who rely on events like the Ekka that not just showcase and reward the best of the best, but also provide much needed respite and highlight the many challenges they face such as drought."

Mr Christou said the Ekka was also much more than the 10 days of show each August.

"While the gates won't open this August, we have programs running throughout the year educating the public on the important role agriculture plays in their everyday lives and helping bridge the city country divide,'' he said.

"That engagement will not just continue but expand.

"We thank the people of Queensland for their support of Ekka and we look forward to bringing the community together once again to celebrate the country coming to city as planning now starts on the 2021 Show."

The showgrounds will be made available for the government's use during this health crisis, just like it has in the past.

"The RNA will provide every assistance to the government during this public health emergency, including the use of our Royal International Convention Centre which can be transformed into a functioning hospital as required," Mr Christou said.

"Over the past 144 years, the Brisbane Showgrounds have been used to help the community in times of need, including being used as a treatment centre in 1919 for those suffering from Spanish Influenza to an evacuation centre for those impacted by the devastation of the 2011 Brisbane floods.

"The RNA is dedicated to providing all the assistance and support it can to government and the health authorities in these ever-changing and uncertain times."

Just as our bush communities and farming families inspire us with their resilience the RNA will work tirelessly to ensure the 2021 Ekka is the biggest and best yet."