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Best seats in the show for lucky rural students

A group of country kids have enjoyed the opportunity to see the Sydney Royal Easter Show from a different perspective.

Students from Coolah Central School in front of the Western District exhibit.

A bigger scale: Students from Coolah Central School visit the district exhibits at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

Spending the start of your school holidays in uniform and on excursion might not sound like fun, but for more than 30 students from central-west NSW, it’s a trip on a scale they’ve never seen before.

The students from Coolah, 130 kilometres northeast of Dubbo, won the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go behind the scenes at the Sydney Royal Easter Show as part of a competition for rural schools.

Coolah Central School agriculture teacher Kate Thompson said she decided to apply after seeing the program advertised on Facebook.

“We didn’t expect to win, it was such a shock,” Mrs Thompson said.

“The response has been really overwhelming. All the messages of support, it’s been fantastic. The community is very, very excited for this.”

The four-day trip is part of the Royal Agricultural Society’s ‘All roads to the royal’ program, which aims to provide opportunities to rural students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to access the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

Year 12 student Edward Cox was visiting the Sydney Royal Easter Show for the first time.

“There’s no local show in Coolah. I think the closest show is Dunedoo, which is about half an hour away,” Edward said.

The scale of the Dunedoo Show doesn’t compare to the Sydney Royal, however, which bills itself as the nation’s largest ticketed event.

“Dunedoo would probably be about the size of this building and that’s it. This is pretty massive,” Edward added pointing to the Fresh Food Dome.

Coolah Year 12 agriculture student Brody Pettet said the show excursion had also opened his eyes to the scope of careers in agriculture.

“There’s so much variety in ag,” Brody said. “There are so many options you can choose from, so many paths you can go down.”

The Coolah community was hit hard by the St Ivan’s bushfire in 2017, which was followed by 18 months of crippling drought.

“The community has done it really tough over the past two years,” Mrs Thompson said.

“The kids needed a little bit of a pep up and this is just a fantastic opportunity.”

The ‘All roads to the royal’ prize involved transportation to, and accommodation in Sydney, networking events with the Royal Agricultural Society and behind-the-scenes tours of many of the show’s venues.

The 40 students, staff and parents from Coolah also had reserved seating for the Grand Parade and evening entertainment.

For Edward, the highlights of the trip were the private tours led by the Royal Agricultural Society’s Youth Group, a network of young people who coordinate youth-focused competitions and programs at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

“I think the most interesting thing is going behind the scenes, going to see things the public might not have seen before,” he said.

“I like seeing how many people are here, I love seeing all the animals, and I love seeing all the machinery and all the displays.”

For Mrs Thompson, the biggest benefit for her students was the skills the trip would impart.

“Not only are they developing in confidence, teamwork and leadership skills, but just the behind-the-scenes knowledge they’re getting from all the youth group members,” Mrs Thompson said.

“They’re just having a fantastic time, and the skills they’re developing will be here for life.”

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