Woodchopping axed, musicians begged to play for free ... What's happening with the Royal Canberra Show?

The Royal Canberra Show is facing tough times but remains viable, according to organisers who have axed woodchopping from this year's event and begged local musicians to play for free to save on costs.

The show, which has been a feature of Canberra life for 91 years, will be back on February 23 to 25 at Exhibition Park in Canberra.

Woodchopping at the Royal Canberra Show.

Photo: Kate Leith

Royal National Capital Agricultural Society president Michael Kennedy said the iconic event had run at a loss for the last couple of years and needed to make some tough decisions to rein in costs. But it would prevail, a feature of Canberra life since 1927.

"The show will keep going. It's not going to stop on my watch," he said.

Sideshow alley at the Royal Canberra Show in 2016.

Photo: Jeffrey Chan, Fairfax Media

Mr Kennedy said a sudden increase in the price of timber from the Gippsland had forced the society to cut the popular woodchopping competition from the program. Woodchopping cost $30,000 to $40,000 to stage at the show, including prize money. It would return in 2019, Mr Kennedy promised.

"It's the hardest decision we've ever had to make," he said.

Andrew Wiseman, the Canberra spokeswoman for the Federation of New South Wales Axemen's Associations, said the woodchopping event needed sponsorship and he hoped the local community could step up and help.

"It is disappointing. It was one of the best woodchops in Australia in 2017, at the last Canberra show" Mr Wiseman said.

A competitor in the woodchopping competition at the Royal Canberra Show in 2016.

Photo: Graham Tidy

Mr Kennedy conceded show budgets might have been "poorly managed" in the past but the society, which was volunteer-run, was determined to ensure the event continued.

The society, which received no funding, had asked for support from the ACT Government, including waiving or reducing rent at EPIC. A government spokesman said it was willing to provide more "operational support" but not funding.

Royal National Capital Agricultural Society president Michael Kennedy promises woodchopping will be back at the Royal Canberra Show in 2019.

Photo: Scott Ogilvie

"They understand the loss ot the show would be enormous," Mr Kennedy said, of the government.

The desperate lengths the society has gone to save money was evident when a show staff member posted on the Canberra Musicians' Club's Facebook page asking for DJs, guitarists and solo singers to perform for free in the bars at this' year's event.

Crowds at the Royal Canberra Show in 2008.

"Please I don't want to have a fight over this," she wrote on the page.

"I understand that it's a profession and you should be paid but at this minute we have no money for anything so I'm looking for some champions!"

Her post was roundly howled down by the musicians, who were offended by being asked to perform for free.

Meanwhile, ActewAGL spokesman Paul Walshe said it provided $90,000 a year in sponsorship,as the major sponsor of the show. And would continue to do so, with an agreement in place for the next two years at least.

"We're committed to the show," Mr Walshe said.

A new ticketing system has also been installed at this year's show to ensure crowds can get into EPIC more quickly.

But ticket prices are unlikely to be reduced in the wake of the cost pressures. A ticket for a family of four at the gate will cost $72 at this year's show. The show society has no control over additional costs charged in sideshow alley or the showbags.

The society has also in recent times had to face a fraud investigation against one of its members.

But ACT Policing confirmed last week there would be no charges laid in the alleged fraud case due to insufficient evidence.

"ACT Policing can confirm it conducted an investigation into allegations of fraud by a member of the Royal National Capital Agricultural Society," a spokesperson said.

"There is insufficient evidence to proceed to prosecution. ACT Policing now considered this matter finalised."

Mr Kennedy maintained the fraud allegations were entirely separate to the financial challenges now facing the society.

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