It was 24 years ago that Fiona Sanderson was one of the founders of the Show School Paraders at the annual area shows.
She’s since moved to Queensland, but this year as a special surprise for Tumut High School agriculture teacher Tony Butler, she returned to judge the 2017 event.
“He had no idea I was coming down this morning!” she laughed.
“To Tony and Fran I really do take my hat off, they’ve done an amazing job. You run into a few people in your life like they are; I think they’re one of the extraordinary ones.
“It’s been an absolute honour to be involved in it.”
Ms Sanderson’s mother founded the Murray Grey breed of cattle, and she has continued the family tradition – she began her first stud breed at the tender age of nine.
She was living on a property at Muttama when the parading first got started, and both of her children went to Gundagai Primary and Gundagai High Schools.
She’s since relocated up north, but she was in the area visiting her daughter, an agribusiness manager in Griffith, when the idea to surprise Tony Butler at the Tumut Show came up.
It’s an integral part of the show now, but a quarter of a century ago when the parading first started, Ms Sanderson said had no idea the effect it would have on the participating students.
“We were showing cattle at the time, and we sent steers to the schools with some of the children coming to us and learning about the cattle. Tony, Fran and I went back and forwards for a while with ideas, and we came up with this amazing idea,” she explained.
“Because the students’ confidence grew going out in the ring with the animals, so too their confidence in their lessons grew.
“They met some interesting people along the way, and had to be quite grown up in areas where they were showing cattle with exhibitors. It was amazing; within twelve months we say the students marks starting to improve in maths and English and all sorts of things.
“Some of them weren’t really academic, but with the animals it gave them a hands-on thing, it was something tangible they had to work on.”
The School Show Paraders section of the annual event involves two sections, junior and senior.
Juniors are judged on their skill with parading their animals, and seniors are also judged on their knowledge of beef cattle.
This year the participating schools were Tumut High School and Gundagai High School.
It’s not the end of showing for the year for Ms Sanderson however – next up she’ll be participating in the Cattle Experience at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney, teaching our city cousins, as she calls them, about the beef cattle industry, with five sessions a day for fourteen days.
The Sydney show will doubtlessly be a grander affair than Tumut, but Ms Sanderson said there’ll always be a special place in her heart for the local show.
“Home’s always home,” she said.
“Tumut’s always been a lovely little show, we used to show our stud cattle up here and it’s always a pleasure to come.”