John Bennet is the Managing Director of the Worrigee House reception centre and the son of dual equestrian Olympian Merv Bennett.
John served five years as the president of the Nowra Show Society and after being on the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth (RAS) Council for the past seven years, was appointed to prestigious position of Ring Master for this year’s Royal Easter Show in Sydney.
John joined the RAS in 2005 and was elected to its Council in 2009. With his long experience in many areas John now sits on the horse, agricultural, and Youth Affairs committees of the RAS, with the pig and alpaca committee thrown in for good measure.
John was the guest speaker at Rotary Nowra’s dinner meeting last week. Again there was a good audience of Rotarians, partners and guests to hear John give an account of this year’s Royal Easter Show ring entertainment and highlights.
John started with a brief history of the RAS that was formed in 1822 and how it operates along with the reasons for its relocation from Moore Park to Sydney Olympic Park.
John said that unlike the Nowra show where he is also the ringmaster and does much of the running around, at the Royal Easter Show he has 120 paid staff and 80 voluntary stewards working under his guidance.
He said that the logistics of running the Royal Easter show that attracts over one million people most years is enormous, with its many operating requirements including OHS.
John said that wet weather and school holidays have an effect on attendance and, with this year’s Show being held outside the school holidays, numbers were down a little.
In the horse activities alone, he oversees 2000 horses and riders in 5,000 different events over the show period with the prize money being $120,000 for the rodeo, $150,000 for the show jumping and $300,000 for all other ring events.
John said that whilst the prize money is attractive, winning in certain competitions can add $100,000 to the value of an animal overnight and produce even greater returns with ongoing breeding rights.
John said that these three aspects of winning means that competition is fierce and officials are under a lot of pressure and scrutiny to ensure fairness prevails. John, who was awarded a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Club of Bomaderry recently, added that Rotary’s 4-way test would be a great tool for him to use as ringmaster.
John said that tradition dictates that on the day he behaves and conducts himself in a military ceremonial manner and this was demonstrated in the video he showed of the opening Grand Parade with him, in a fanfare of uplifting music, leading a formation of Green Coats on horseback followed by all the animals and their owners or riders.
He said that the reason that some exhibitors were smiling and some were not was that participating in the Grand Parade is a requirement and failure to show up attracts a substantial fine.
John said that he was carrying the ceremonial ring master’s cane, nicknamed the persuader, with the names of all ring masters since 1822 engraved on it and the horse he was riding was his new five-year-old stock horse gelding called Tocal Cascade that had been broken in by the students of the Tocal Agricultural College.
John said that, other than having a few jitters at his first big event, his horse is an absolute cracker.
John went on to show us the video of all the ring events including the cattle, dog and other animal judging, the powerful Man from Snowy Mountain and Clancy of the Overflow re-enactments and cattle separation techniques conducted by real stockmen as opposed to actors.
The motorbikes, music entertainment, including Troy Cassar-Daley, the many other ring events and the large firework display capped each evening of the Show.
In question time John said that one needs to spend at least two days at the Royal Easter Show to sample all the day and night time events, exhibitions and displays.