The weekend of the 5th and 6th April 2014 saw a bunch of dedicated USFA Committee members brave the torrid wind and rain to set up and run a successful booth at the Family Fishing Show located out at Penrith Paceway. The show, focussing on family orientated enjoyment of Recreational Fishing, sounded exactly like what the USFA were seeking; an audience focussed on the social aspects of catching food for the plate. The estimation of 30,000 show visitors made the choice to attend relatively easy. The odds looked good for us to convert at least some of these visitors into USFA members. To aid this goal we put on a show special of a $50 Senior and $20 Junior membership. But as some things go, there were hiccups to overcome along the way. I must point out here that our team met these obstacles head on and manipulated some very favourable outcomes whilst wearing a smile despite some sometimes trying conditions.
Firstly, due to heavy rainfall the week preceding the event, the location of the show was picked up and moved from Parramatta Park to Penrith Paceway. A brave move by the organisers the week before the scheduled event. However, there was not much choice available as the ‘Powers that be’ at Parramatta Park had threatened to possibly cancel altogether if the poor weather continued. The event co-ordinators did an exceptional job just to be ready in time and due credit must be given in this regard. However, it also saw a few other obstacles appear with last minute arrangements and organisation.
The USFA team comprised of USFA Historian, Mel Brown, who despite having a bung shoulder ready for surgery put in a solid three full days. Mel also bought along a selection of Historical items for display including vintage Fins, Guns, Snorkels with ping pong balls, and even a mask made from a car tyre inner tube and piece of glass! Classic stuff. I thoroughly enjoyed looking through the old photos and listening to Mel explain the history behind our pioneers and their equipment, nearly all self-made. The crowd too, were impressed. Thank You Mel. Resident Fish Expert, Sascha Schulz, made the trip from Berima on the Friday to help us set up. His underlying Electrical Engineering qualification also became handy when we had to navigate the Penrith Paceway Electrical system to get some safe power for our stand. Thanks Sash.
Max Gordon-Hall, having driven 6 hours from Bathurst on the Friday to help setup, also proved invaluable as he was ordered to the very top of the ladder to hook up his event-saving tarpaulin that he just happened to have in the back of his car! The driving rain and wind was kept at bay thanks to that lovely tarp!! Max also assisted the following day at the booth before making the arduous drive back to Bathurst to start work by 8pm that night. Impressive effort. Thanks Max.
USFA President, Peter Saunders, was also on hand each day and was a great asset in converting semi-interested onlookers into excited potential members, especially those of the fairer sex! On a more serious note, Peter and I were able to spend time with many of our Fishing and political allies to strengthen and strategise our common goals for a stronger future. This alone, was worth the effort of the event. Thank You Pete. Alby Cooke, despite having just emerged from hospital for surgery to his arm, made the trip down from Terrigal and put in a full days effort at the stand. Nothing was too much effort for him and he was a great help. Thank You Alby.
Simon Trippe and Andrew Harvey were guest speakers at the event and kept the crowds enthralled with their safety and Jewfish presentations. They too, assisted the team in spruiking the joys of safe diving. Thank You guys for your support. Thanks must also go out to our ever serving Treasurer, Lee Dalli, who , despite having worked through the night made sure we had USFA shirts, eskys, drinks, membership forms, magazines and a host of other things that were critical to our success. What would we do without you Lee? Thank You!
At the booth we had a large assortment of back issues of our USFA Skindiver Magazine, and boy did they go like hotcakes! We managed to slip a membership form and the Spearfishing Guide into each bundle and I would estimate we gave out several hundred Spearfishing Safely DVDs, Membership forms, Guides to Spearfishing and magazines. Plenty of great information out in to the public! I was very impressed with the number of people who took interest in what we had to say and they were even more impressed when we were able to back it up and give them a Safety DVD and Guide to Spearfishing. Many mothers, Fathers and Grand Parents were taking them for people “who could do with this information”. Great stuff, exactly what was being aimed for when these resources were developed. Similarly, many were impressed to hear about our Code of Conduct and mentoring strategies delivered through our club network up and down the coast. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few new faces at club meetings over the next few months.
We had video footage running on two 42 inch TVs the entire time which also kept the crowds interested. A huge Thank You goes out to Michael Tackach for giving us the opportunity to play his exceptional footage throughout the weekend. The Jew schools stopped them in their tracks!! Many were impressed by the marine life available and the selectiveness of spearfishing. I can honestly say there was not one bad comment about spearfishing and I believe this was due to our members actively engaging anybody who even dared to stare in our direction and then giving them quality information and answering all their questions. Once again, a valuable strategy working towards changing any possible poor perception of spearfishing in the general public.
So even though it poured rain, the numbers to the show were not as high as expected and we had to overcome a number of obstacles we still had a roaring success. We had members that went beyond the call of duty to work together and improvise and we reached out to a very large proportion of those who came through the gates. We sold our values of safety and sustainability well and we distributed an enormous amount of material directly to those who were interested. Thank You again to our team and I look forward to an even bigger event next year. Max, you better pack that tarp again…. just in case!
Dive Safe Peter Walsh USFA Vice President