Chinchilla's battered rodeo arena ready for demolition

Gary Evans will be sad to see the local rodeo arena he built with his late father knocked down, but looks forward to a safer complex taking its place.
Gary Evans will be sad to see the local rodeo arena he built with his late father knocked down, but looks forward to a safer complex taking its place. Emma Heron

CHINCHILLA'S 30-year-old battered rodeo arena will be demolished in the coming months but, for local Gary Evans, the memories of building the old site with his dad will remain.

As a 16-year-old lad, Gary worked with father Wally and a team of volunteers knocking in the wooden posts and carting loam to soften the ground.

Wally was at one time the president of the Chinchilla Rodeo Committee, and his name has hung over the arena since.

The now fragile and dangerous, Wally Evans Arena is soon to receive a $75,000 upgrade.

Chinchilla Show Society president Greg Stanke said the infrastructure would change but the arena name would not.

While he was stoked to hear his dad's legacy would live on, Gary said the demolition would still be "bitter sweet".

He could point out dents in the fence he made when "ploughing flat gallop" into it while working the rodeo. He also remembered back in the day when bulls would be pulled out of the scrub to ride and his dad reigned as chute boss.

"It's definitely the end of an era and it will be sad to see the place go," he said.

"But I wouldn't want to be working or riding there as it is: It's just too dangerous."

Mr Stanke said all rodeos scheduled had been cancelled with the upgrade due for completion by the Melon Festival in February.

"After discussions with the local rodeo figures, we all agreed that a bull could easily get out of the fragile fencing as it is and someone could be killed," he said.

"No-one wanted to see events cancelled but safety had to be paramount here."

Wally Evans Arena will be rebuilt from steel with new chutes, panels and a redesigned complex to cater for growing crowds.

"Rodeo has never been a dying sport and, as long as you cater for it, the people will keep coming," he said.

While acknowledging the importance of the town's rodeo legacy, Mr Stanke also acknowledged the contribution of the Ryan, Elm, Barker and Olm families.

The round-up:

  • Chinchilla rodeos were moved from the recreational grounds to the showgrounds in 1948.
  • Rodeos originally shared the same arena as horse events, campdrafting and football.
  • The current Wally Evans Arena provided a softer surface for rodeo events from the early 1970s.

Topics:  chinchilla rodeo showgrounds

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