Young women from around New England competed and co-operated to become the Mazda Armidale and New England Showgirl, most suited to represent the modern regional woman.
The event gives entrants the opportunity to become involved in their local communities as rural ambassadors.
The six women were interviewed by a panel of three judges, who tested their local, state, and international knowledge, and assessed their community involvement, personality, and presentation. While agricultural involvement was a factor, not all the girls had to work on the land; they could be teachers or physiotherapists in regional areas.
The winner was Jasmine Whitten, who moved to Armidale in early 2015, and is completing a Bachelor of Rural Science at UNE.
She intends to become an agricultural consultant, and so develop policy and help farmers increase their production.
“Being the showgirl is a huge opportunity for personal growth,” she said. “It has highlighted new ways that I can get involved with the show, and really contribute to my community!
“Although it also offers some new challenges, I am excited to see what my year as showgirl and ambassador for Armidale will hold!”
Jasmine has been involved with the show for the last three years.
In her first year in Armidale, she received the Landmark Aggregate Shield, awarded to the junior judging competitor with the highest overall points, after she entered every junior judging competition (meat sheep, merino, cattle, and horse), and borrowed an animal for the beef cattle paraders’ competition.
Since then, she has been an associate judge and an over judge for junior judging competitions.
Jasmine will be “the face of the Show”, its ambassador, for the next year. She will go on to the Narribri Zone 4 finales in 2019, and compete against 22 other towns in the region.
If she wins, she will go on to Sydney Royal for a week’s judging.
Although there can only be one winner, the competition is a far cry from a competitive television reality show.
“It's a lovely way for young ladies to meet, and all six probably didn't know each other before they entered, and now they've formed a really good friendship,” organiser Emma Hooper said.
Ms Hooper, an entrant back in 1989, has organised the event since 2016, when the event was brought back.
While the showgirls competition has run for more than half a century from Sydney Royal, Armidale lacked a showgirl for several years, as they had no coordinator.
“Everybody's there to work with each other and support and encourage each other to do their best,” Ms Hooper said.
Jasmine and other showgirls will take part in local events, including the Autumn Festival, judging the Armidale Cup to help with Fashions in the Field, Toastmasters, and the Lions and Rotary Clubs.
“The Showgirl competition offers so much to its participants like new friendships, expanding networks, and gaining professional experience,” she said.
“When they were announcing names, I was utterly shocked that they called mine because every single girl on that stage had a right to be the showgirl!”
The runner-up was Madeleine Broomfield, completing her Master of Science at UNE. She is working on a vaccine to control Barber’s pole worm, a parasite that causes diseases in sheep.
She entered the competition to network within the agricultural industry, meet new, interesting and inspiring people, as well as fellow showgirls whom you become great friends with.
“It is also a great opportunity for personal development, particularly what you learn from each other. Being able to promote the show, agriculture, and the region to both the Armidale and wider community is also very rewarding and enjoyable.”
Originally from England, Madeleine has been in Armidale since 2005, except for studying her undergraduate degree in Queensland.
She hopes to remain in the animal health research industry, focusing on veterinary products to prevent and control parasites and diseases in livestock.
The other entrants were also proud of their participation in the competition.
“It was a great opportunity to better understand the way the show and show society serve the community,” said Kim Wilkinson.
She is studying a Bachelor’s degree in sport and exercise, and hopes to pursue a career in rural health.
Jemima Harper will finish her Bachelor of Education at UNE later this year, and wants to teach in rural and remote areas.
“I believe there is a power to education, and hope to create safe learning environments for my students,” she said.
Business student Camilla Dawson wants to go into oral health or pharmacy, both of which she believes regional Australia needs, and compete internationally in dressage.
“I hope to inspire and encourage the younger generation to dream big and achieve things step by step within our regional community,” she said.
All the showgirls, winners and entrants alike, agree that the experience has been positive and rewarding, and have made new friends.
"Once a showgirl, always a showgirl," Ms Hooper said.
"There's always this bond - a very strong connection - usually with the girls keeping in touch. It would be lovely to have a reunion of all the past showgirls!"