The fair celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, and it began as a picnic day for the locals. The reserve itself, which straddles the Orara River, was originally set aside in the 19th Century as a watering reserve for livestock. Jo Fenwick tells us more about what we can expect at this year’s event …
Tell us about the history of the Orara Valley Fair.
The President of the first official Orara Valley Fair, Doug Hoschke, said fundraising began because money was needed to pay back a bank loan taken out to replace the floor of the Historic 1908 Upper Orara Hall.
“We had to raise a hundred pounds a year, so we decided to run a sports day and once we paid off the money for the hall, we came up with the idea of smartening up the recreation ground and building new amenities,” Doug said.
And that tradition continues to today, where the money is put back into the community. Activities from early fairs which remain on the program today include woodchopping and children’s races and games, both still very popular. Over the 40 years the fair has grown from being a purely local outing to a major Coffs Coast event, attracting thousands of people to the riverside recreation ground, set among fertile farmland.
Many years ago, the fair outgrew the recreation ground itself, and today it is able to be run only by the grace and goodwill of kindly neighbouring farmers Troy Blackman and Waterfall Agriculture and Sharon and Steve Blackmore, who give up their paddocks so people can park their cars and tractor-drawn hayrides, pony rides, helicopter rides and other space-hungry events can be included in the program.
Who are the organisers of the event?
The fair, which is non-profit, is still run by a community committee of Upper Orara residents with the help of hundreds of other local volunteers on the day. We would still welcome more volunteers if anyone is interested in helping out on the day.
The event will be celebrating its 40th year this year. What can we expect?
The fair will be held on Monday 12th June from 9:30am to 4pm and is offering something for every age. There will be the very popular working vintage farm machinery from the Orara Vintage Farm Machinery Museum, wood chopping competitions, tractor-drawn hay rides, farm tours with Waterfall Agriculture, horse rides, whip cracking demonstrations, free circus workshops, reptile and farm animals, bungy bounce, children’s races, a guess-the-weight of the steer competition, a jumping castle, rural fire displays and lots of stalls, a wide variety of food will be available.
The wood chopping program will include tree-felling, a special event which is rarely held today. Entertainment is by the ever popular Tallowood Bush Band, backed up by Sawtell’s backyard balladeer Errol Gray and local dancers and performers. As well, the Upper Orara Hall will be open, with a quilt display in conjunction with the fair. The fair will also showcase the work of Landcare and Rivercare, with displays of local problem weeds, information on how to improve soils and biodiversity and talks on a variety of topics.
Can you tell us about the charities you will be raising money for?
In four decades the fair has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, not only by donating the profits from the fair, but also by paying community groups to provide services and by allowing schools, preschools, community groups and organisations to raise funds through stalls and activities.
Different local charities are selected for support each year by the committee as soon as the bills for the fair are paid and the amount available for distribution is known. In 2016, the fair donated almost $7,000 to eight local organisations, including Men’s Shed, Refugee Resettlement Services and Wildlife Rescue.
This year, for the first time, the fair is working with REAP Food Rescue to help feed the hungry and minimise waste by collecting usable food left over for distribution to homeless local people.
Where is the festival held?
At the Upper Orara Recreation Ground, Dairyville Road, Dairyville.
How much is the entry fee?
The cost is $5 adults and $2 school age children, with younger children free.
Where is the parking?
Parking is on the land adjacent to the Rec Ground and is marshalled by volunteers to guide you to your spot. The fair aims to provide an affordable day out for everyone, so Glenreagh Bus Service is providing a free bus service to and from the Fair from Glenreagh, Nana Glen, Coramba and Coffs Harbour. Times and pick up spots will be on our website.
When: Monday 12th June. 9:30am to 4pm
For more info visit our Facebook: Orara Valley Fair or at www.oraravalleyfair.com.au