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What is the Big Bush BBQ?

Posted on : 22 March 2021

It was lunchtime at the 2017 Illabo Show, the sun was shining, the gates were open, and two RAS volunteers were starving. Assigned to help the Illabo volunteers with their Hoof and Hook Comp, Bec and Bridget had worked up furious appetites pretending they knew what they were doing. Treating themselves to a sausage sandwich, conversation quickly turned to how satisfying this simple lunch was. Thin beef sausage, a good pile of grilled onions, and a squirt of cold tomato sauce. In the right moment, surely this is culinary heaven.

After the Illabo Show, they suggested to the Sydney Royal Easter Show General Manager Murray Wilton that they should have a BBQ at the Show, even if it was just to feed the staff. The timing couldn’t have been better – in 2017 the RAS had decided that upping regional engagement was a top priority, making it one of the organisation’s milestones. The idea sat with Murray for a few days, until he announced there would be a BBQ, on the proviso it was staffed with volunteers from NSW Show Societies with all funds raised going straight back home with them.

The dream of a Show sausage sizzle was now a reality and at the 2018 Sydney Royal Easter Show 17 regional communities, 9000 sausages, and 500 kilos of onion made the first Big Bush BBQ a winner!

Besides raising well over $40,000 over the 12 days of the 2018 Show, the BBQ galvanised people into action and brought people to the Show with the excitement and energy that comes from having a sense of purpose.

  • One bloke, from Queanbeyan, hadn’t been to the Easter Show since the seventies. He’d never seen the new Showgrounds as last time he had come the RAS was still based at Moore Park.
  • Two neighbouring Show Societies came together and shared their day, so they could split their petrol costs and make sure they had enough people behind the counter because their pool of volunteers was so small.
  • Not having any access to power is something that wouldn’t ever be considered at Sydney Showground - with the funds they raised at the BBQ, Cootamundra were finally able to install electricity in their pavilion and host the Cootamundra Hereford Heifer Show.

In 2019, 16 societies from across the state joined the BBQ. From down the South Coast to up by the Queensland border, these passionate and committed people travelled into town for their day wielding tongs, wiping away onion tears and manning the sauce bottles. They raised money to enable agricultural education programs, to buy better equipment and infrastructure, to repair crumbling buildings and to install lighting in ticket booths so volunteers can see what they’re doing!

Sponsors were happy to come on board, Woolworths - the Fresh Food People – are also purveyors of fine sausage-sizzle-ready snags! And so keen were Woolworths to stay involved they donated over $40,000 to be split amongst the Show Societies who missed their turn on the tongs following the cancellation of the 2020 Show.

Come and visit the Big Bush BBQ during the Show, take a moment to say hello to those hosting, and hear their stories. You’ll enjoy your sausage sandwich even more knowing that by buying it, you’re helping make a difference to a regional community.

The Show Societies at the 2021 Big Bush BBQ – Singleton, Cowra, The Rock, Orange, Lithgow, Tamworth, Dapto, Robertson, Morisset Lake Macquarie, Parkes, Gresford, Goulburn.

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