COVID-19 is tearing at the heart of Narrandera Shire’s $30 million tourism industry with events cancelled and businesses working to avoid a retail slump.
This weekend’s Narrandera Folk Festival and the Narrandera Rod Run will be held in a down-sized, modified format but the Youth Week activities, Anzac Day ceremonies, Council organised school holiday activities and Library’s Lego for Littlies have been cancelled.
The Commonwealth Government announcement on Friday to shut down mass gatherings of over 500 people left events, festivals, sporting fixtures, race meetings and shows in doubt.
The Group 20 Rugby League board met over the weekend and cancelled the knockout, the Wagga Mardi Gras and Ardlethan Picnic Races were cancelled, the Man From Snowy River Festival rescheduled to September, the Deni Ute Muster in October and Leeton SunRice Festival cancelled, Ganmain Historical Society’s open day on March 21 will not go ahead and RSL NSW has cancelled all Anzac Day services.
In jeopardy is the AFL SNSW Women’s Grand Final at Narrandera as AFL Southern NSW monitors the crisis, Morundah Team Yarding on April 4-5 and the Riverina Field Days at Griffith.
Narrandera Race Club’s L H Peacock Memorial race meeting in June will not be open to the public. A spokesman said a decision on the ProTen Community Cup knockout at Narrandera on May 9 had not been made while the AFL Riverina has suspended this week’s round of the Youth Girl competition.
The Barellan Working Clydesdales wool wagon and Furphy train display at the Sydney Royal Easter Show has been cancelled along with the April Easter show. The Elvis Dean Martin Show on March 20 at Ardlethan will not go ahead.
But the Barellan Two Blues season launch beach party will be held at the sportsground on April 4.
In a statement, the Riverina Field Days announced a decision on the May event was pending.
“As the situation is moving so quickly and circumstances continue to change, we will be speaking to all our key stakeholders this week to review our options around a possible postponement,” the statement said.
“The uncertainty surrounding the time frame of the gathering restrictions is what is making the decision difficult to navigate.”
Narrandera Eagles will go ahead with a planned trial game against Barellan in the senior men’s and Open Women’s final on Friday, March 20.
The Eagles debutante ball on April 4 will go ahead with tickets capped at 499.
Narrandera High School principal Marni Milne said daily morning assemblies would not continue until further notice. The school’s stage 5 dance assessment was cancelled due to new social distancing requirements.
The Riverina School Sports Association has advised the cancellation of secondary rugby union and Australian Football trials, primary AFL trials, primary boys and girls hockey trials, secondary rugby league and boys football trials, secondary golf trials, secondary boys and girls hockey trials, primary boys football, secondary netball, secondary boys and girls water polo and primary girls football trials.
All zone/district, Riverina, NSWPSSA and NSWCHSSA activities will be temporarily stopped until further notice. This includes the PSSA and CHS knockout competitions and central venue days.
The Narrandera Folk Festival committee worked over the weekend to offer a revised format for the community and visitors. While the main part of the festival has been cancelled in accordance with the national directive, the committee will offer the events with limited or capped attendance.
Bingo on Friday night has been postponed to later in the year but Geoffrey Graham’s show at the Bowling Club on Saturday night and the high tea and sing-a-long on Sunday at the John O’Brien Heritage Museum are set to run.
Narrandera Rod Run president Steve Alldrick said rodders already registered for the event would continue to spend their Easter break in Narrandera.
The Cruisin’ No Boozin’ in East Street and Show ‘n Shine in the Marie Bashir Park events have been cancelled but the annual dinner Easter Sunday night at the Golf Club will go ahead.
Narrandera Shire Council Mayor Cr Neville Kschenka said while the decision was disappointing, ensuring the safety of the public was the first priority and this decision has not been made lightly.
“It is with great regret that we must cancel the biggest event of the year for Narrandera, one that our community loves and has supported for the past 35 years,” Cr Kschenka said. “Accommodation providers, hospitality providers, and local businesses are all likely to experience the economic impacts of the event cancellation, but it is necessary to minimise the spread of Coronavirus.”
Narrandera Business Group president Ann Black said the impact of COVID-19 on the town and events were first felt last weekend.
“This impacts on the local moteliers and shops – everybody loses out,” Mrs Black said. “We urge people to be sensible, not panic buy and be mindful of the elderly shoppers as the town has only one supermarket.
“I must admit people are still visiting and spending money in the retail shops, food outlets and the local attractions. Narrandera still has a lot to offer.
Mrs Black said it was business as usual and retailers remained upbeat.
“We have been through drought so please stay positive, shop and eat locally,” she said.
All Council services will continue as usual with the exception of Community Transport. All non-essential services have been cancelled except for shopping transport.
Meanwhile, Coles Narrandera has limited purchases of mince, pasta, flour, dry rice, paper towels, paper tissues and hand sanitisers to two items per customer, and toilet paper to one pack per customer.
The new social distancing directives advise people to avoid group gatherings, concerts, theatre outings, athletic events and mass public transport systems.
In the agricultural sector, Griffith City Council has confirmed the saleyards are operating as normal with restrictions on people displaying flu-like symptoms or who have recently returned from overseas.
Racing NSW has advised thoroughbred race meetings, barrier trials and track work (including access to licensed training stables) in NSW will not be open to the public (including owners), effective immediately and until further notice.
There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Murrumbidgee Local Health District.
UPDATE: Since going to print, the Narrandera Folk Festival has cancelled all ticketed events. The Bidgee Beard competition will be moved to an online platform and the committee is working on the live streaming of the bands. Bingo has been postponed to later in the year.
The Narrandera Eagles trial game against Barellan was cancelled and the Debutante Ball has been postponed to later in the year.