There’s something undeniably special about regional shows.
They are a great chance to socialise and there is no better way to celebrate local produce, creativity and skill.
In Coffs Harbour, Innisfail and Tully, bananas – and the people behind them – are very much part of their show communities.
The efforts of organisers, judges and growers who enter the local competitions are clearly appreciated by show-goers, who get a glimpse into another side of their favourite fruit.
On top of that, there’s very real prizes at stake for the three Banana Exhibits – and a whole lot of bragging rights to boot.
Supplied results at the end of this article
Among the flowers, photographs, cakes and quilts on display in the Coffs Harbour Exhibition Hall, three banana plants stand tall.
Concrete floors and florescent lights don’t normally lend themselves to horticulture, but in this case, they’re in place to educate.
Along with competition bunches, various cartons, taste testers and merchandise, the Coffs Harbour BGA is doing its bit to raise awareness of bananas and their different varieties.
“I think its important for bananas to have a presence at the show, and for us to let people know what’s around,” said the BGA’s Wally Gately.
While punters admire the hanging bananas, volunteers give out locally grown Cavendish, Lady Finger and Ducasse fruit – the latter proving very popular and resulting in some return visits.
“I enjoy meeting people and hearing their stories,” said BGA volunteer Liz Knoblock. “And the kids just make it worthwhile – they love getting something for free!”
The competition itself was judged by Greig Ireland and Arthur Akehurst, who’ve been involved in bananas for decades.
“We look for pack, quality, confirmation,” Mr Ireland explained. “In bunches it’s very important that they have a similar shape and size.”
Mr Akehurst adds that though they score each entry individually, more often than not, they find they’ve come to the same conclusion.
Brian Singh took home this year’s prestigious Banana Cup, a perpetual trophy that’s been handed out since 1929.
It may have been State of Origin night but it didn’t stop a sizeable crowd gathering for the official banana weigh-in at the Innisfail Show.
The usual procession of utes pulled up to deliver cartons and offload bunches, with judging conducted early the next day.
Two of those involved in the judging process were Nick Lulham, Sales and Supply Manager of Nutrano Sydney, and John Bletsas, Director-Owner of Soils First.
“I’m fairly impressed with what I’ve seen this morning, Mr Lulham said.
“Those who’ve entered have done a good job under trying weather conditions.”
Mr Bletsas said they’re looking for bloom in fruit, for fruit that isn’t marked and is presenting well.
“The weather has been challenging and it’s been affecting bunches in particular, but I think this is a great turnout.”
Among the winners were Celledoni Farming, who received 1st place in five classes and the title of Most Successful Exhibit.
Banana Exhibit Chief Steward Rob Zahra said he was pleased with the turnout, despite tough conditions.
The two growers that did particularly well – Celledoni Farming and Reidy’s Bananas – they’re always great supporters of our exhibit and good luck to them both.”
Mr Zahra also noted the effort involved in getting the Banana Exhibit together each year.
“There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes. But there’s a good group of people involved and we enjoy each other’s company – that’s why we keep coming back each year.”
Sellars Bananas at Mission Beach scooped the pool again at the Tully Banana Exhibit, taking home the honours of Most Successful Exhibitor for the fifth year running.
Sisters Naomi Brownrigg and Belinda Nissen took home the exhibit’s highest accolade after winning five categories including; Champion Large Carton (13kg), Champion Cluster Carton XL 13kg, Champion Cluster Carton 15kg, Champion Hand and Champion Carton (Tully district).
“It’s always very humbling to win Most Successful Exhibitor,’’ Naomi said. “We really enjoy exhibiting fruit at the Tully and Innisfail Shows. We do a bit of planning beforehand and pick bunches out in advance and harvest them on the day. There is a bit of mucking around on the day, but we always put fruit in, and you have got to be in it to win it.”
The Flegler Group took home Champion Plant Bunch, while Serra Farming won Open Heaviest Plant Bunch with a 77kg entry.
Greg Bradshaw, who has been judging at the Tully Show for the past 12 years was impressed with the overall quality of entries.
“Overall the quality was better than I anticipated, (because) we had seen some fairly ordinary fruit in the central market system,” he said.
As always, the annual weigh in on the Thursday night was as much about a good social catch up as entering fruit for judging, with a good crowd gathering to see the fruit on show.