That's the Spirit: Reg Sweeney - Mendooran NSW
While many other small towns’ iconic annual shows are under threat from changing demographic and economic climates, Mendooran’s seems to go from strength to strength each year, global pandemics notwithstanding. Proud current show committee president, Reg Sweeney, says that’s a reflection not just of the strength of his fellow team members, but of the town itself, a community with a spirit that simply refuses to lie down and die. Jen Cowley joined Reg and some of the committee members as they prepared for a parade to mark Mendooran School’s 150th birthday.
Reg: I’ve just done my fifth year as President of the Mendooran Show Society, and while it takes up a fair bit of time and at times it takes its toll, it’s a satisfying role. The committee helps lighten the load – we have a great committee.
Jen: The COVID-19 pandemic scuttled this year’s Mendooran Show, as it did many others, didn’t it?
Reg: Yes, it did. We usually have the show on the last weekend in March, and just prior to that was when the Covid-19 thing was beginning to take hold, so two weeks before hand we had to make a decision as to whether we could go ahead. In the end, the decision was taken out of our hands anyway, and no, we couldn’t run the show.
Jen: It was a necessary step, but so disappointing for so many events and people, but Coronavirus aside, why do you enjoy being the president of the show society and what made you want to step up into that role?
Reg: I haven’t really thought about it. I just love just being with the show and we have a great committee, they’re great to work with. I was vice president for quite a while and I saw how it was a great bunch of people to work with, so it seemed like a natural thing (to become president). Plus, my wife Robyn (who is also part of the committee) and I love showing sheep, we have our own stud. We’ve always shown sheep right from since we were married, and we love local shows. We show at some larger shows as well.
Jen: How long have you been in the district?
Reg: Our roots in the district run quite deep.
Robyn and I were only 38 kms apart (growing up) and we’ve been in the same district together as kids. We’ve known each other for a long time.
I came from over near Elong (between Dubbo and Dunedoo) on my family property. Robyn and I were married in 1980 and we settled at Robyn’s family property “Pinehurst” where we have raised our children.
Jen: You practically married the girl next door?
Reg: Not far away, but yes, I guess I did (laughs).
Jen: What makes Mendooran a special place?
Reg: It’s only a small place but we rally together. It’s a small community – we’ve had some big investors come in and buy a lot of country around the district – but we still rally together. There’s a great community spirit and we keep it all alive and that helps keep things happening.
Members of the Mendooran PA & H Association, Mendooran NSW
Jen: There always seems to be a lot going on in Mendooran, despite the fact that it looks like a sleepy little town.
Reg: It’s deceptive, isn’t it? It looks like there’s not much there but it’s all happening. For instance, we’ve received some good grants for the local showground and we recently received another one for a new sheep shed and poultry pavilion, and the cattle yards are being upgraded along with more seating.
We (the show society) wanted to just improve things because we enjoy meeting together. There are others that use the grounds too, like polocrosse; the pony club here is quite strong too, it just seems to go from strength to strength. The local car club and the Gilgandra Tractor and Machinery Club uses the Mendooran showgrounds. So, it’s great that there are so many people taking advantage of the facilities and great that we can keep improving them.
Jen: The showground is important to Mendooran and the district for all those organisations but the show itself is also important – why do you think that is?
Reg: It brings everyone together. Even in my own family, everybody is involved with running things, so it’s a great get-together for people and families. At night time (during the show) we keep the bar operating with some food and music,
people come in to forget everything that’s weighing on their minds for a while, to get away from what’s going on, get together and have a good time.
It’s through sticking together that we can overcome challenges, and the show is an example of that – and it becomes more so during a time like drought – in a way we’ve become stronger. I think that’s true of many small communities that are going out of their way to make things work. There’s a way of thinking that’s like, “Well, no-one is going to do it for us, we just have to do it ourselves and make it work.”
Our show committee has some people who are really talented with completing applications for funding, and others who have other strengths, and we draw on each other’s experiences and strengths.
Jen: What would say to someone who was looking at Mendooran and wondering what it’s all about?
Reg: People say it’s a dying town and they’ve given up on us, but I think, we are getting stronger by coming together to overcome that misconception – we’re getting together despite that, or maybe because of it.
We have some of the younger generation coming through and we are making an effort to involve them in the show and other things, and that’s helping the show to go from strength to strength. That helps the whole community, too.
It’s great to see so many young people involved. We still have the older generation too, but it’s good that they’ve been happy to stand back and the younger ones bring their ideas and take the reins.
I’m proud to be part of a community like this and to see the way it’s going.
NALAG's 'That's the Spirit' hardcover book features a selection of excerpts from the stories gathered from Western NSW during 2018-2020.
Members of the Mendooran PA & H Association, Mendooran NSW