Cameron Downs State School Fete

Cameron Downs State School Fete

Over 2 hours by unsealed roads to the nearest township, Shona Larkin and her group of dedicated volunteers have put together a great fete to help celebrate their school’s 50th Anniversary. To find out exactly how they put together the Cameron Downs State School Fete, Shona very kindly agreed to an interview.
Have you organised an event like this before?
Not specifically an event like the Cameron Downs State School Fete, however I am a member of another committee the Hughenden Rugby 7s, which organises a rugby union competition for men and women once a year in July.
When did you start organising the event?
Planning started one year ago with the initial decision to hold a BBQ event.  After much discussion the committee wanted to do something bigger and something that we haven’t done before to attract not only past students, families and staff, but also people within our local district who haven’t visited Cameron Downs State School before.
How many people were in your core group of organisers?
Our P and C committee were the organisers of the event and amongst the group there are 12 members and along with husbands/partners who don’t necessarily come to the meetings, but are a huge help with the set up and preparation of events.
You held the fete last Saturday (23rd September), were you happy with how it all went?
We were very pleased with the overall number of people who attended (approx 200) and the distant people came to celebrate our milestone.  We had people come from all over the state including Cairns and Brisbane.  The whole event was a success and as a committee, we are overwhelmed with the positive feedback and comments we have received from people.
Cameron Downs State School Fete

Were you worried about the weather on the day, I saw that the max temperature was around 38’C?
Initially we chose September as usually it is a lovely time of the year weather wise, however the few days leading up to the event temperatures soared!   We made a few last minute decisions to erect some extra shade via marquee’s and move tables into as much shaded areas as possible.  We also planned to set up a earlier in the week and days, so that we weren’t sweltering in the heat of the day.
Were you happy with the attendance? How did you get the word out about your celebration/fete?
We were very happy with the attendance (approx 200 people) ranging from local people, to past students, families and teachers.  To spread the word, we gathered contacts (address and emails) from past families and posted ‘Save the Date’ invites out to people early in the year.  We also used Facebook to create an event through our school page and connected with many people through social media.
What stalls did you end up having at your fete? 
We had about 8 stalls in total, some local and some people who had travelled from north of Hughenden and one lady from Cloncurry.  They were jewellery, Tupperware, homemade produce (jams, chutney’s, fudge etc), candles, books and toys.
Did you have trouble finding volunteers to help?
We have a wonderful P and C Committee who put in many, many hours of work to get things organised from the preparing the school grounds, sending out invitations, arranging caterers and market stalls, as well as updating photo books and ordering merchandise.
How did you communicate with your families and volunteers? Did social media form a part of your communication?
We held regular meetings at the school which allowed us to prepare for a lot of the event.  Most of the communication was via emails and phone calls.  At times some of the members used social media to send a quick update, but we are all well aware that not all of our P and C members use social media.
Did you have many community groups involved?
We put out an expression of interest for a local club or organisation to cater for our event.  Thankfully we had the Hughenden Pony Club accept and they provided the meals (dinner and dessert) for all of our guests.
Did you reach your fundraising target?
The P and C committee didn’t want to raise specific funds for anything in particular.
cameron downs state school fete
Do you have plans for what you’d like to spend your profits on?
We have built a P and C shed to store many of our supplies we have accumulated over the years (chairs, tables, bain marie’s, cups, etc.)  Any profit that we have made from the Cameron Downs State School Fete will be put back into the cost of building this storage shed.
What was your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge was ensuring that we had as many contacts as possible from both past teachers and students, as it was within out interest to invite as many of those back as possible.  We also found it hard to source ‘extra’ activities for the kids to have that most ‘Fete’s’ do such as swing rides, slides etc due to our distance out of Hughenden and mostly because you have to travel on an unsealed road to get to the school.  We did however manage to secure a jumping castle that seemed to provide the kids with enough entertainment!
What is your best piece of advice for other fete convenors in remote areas?
You can never start planning to soon!  Be clear on your budget and also be prepared with a timeline or deadline of when things need to be done.

Congratulations to the Cameron Downs State School Fete Committee and P&C. Sounds like you put together a fantastic day for your community.

Originally published 3 October, 2017

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