Tom Gibson, president of the Berwick and District Agricultural and Horticultural Society, is filled with community spirit and a passion to see the Berwick Show become the best event it can be. It’s a challenge he’s ready for, as DANIELLE KUTCHEL found out.
“It’s important to remember that we were once a country town and also recognise that we’re a developing multicultural community now, so the show’s evolving as the town evolves.“
If there’s one thing you notice in a conversation with Tom Gibson, it’s that he is a very driven person.
There are goals to be ticked off in every facet of his life – including in his role as president of the committee charged with pulling off the City of Casey’s biggest annual event, the Berwick Show.
“I like challenges, so I think the challenge of getting everything lined up for a big event like the Berwick show is extremely rewarding once you’re there,” he explains.
Coming from a rural background, it was almost fated that Mr Gibson would go on to become so heavily involved in the event.
He grew up in Berwick with a mother who competed regularly in dressage at the show and a dad who was a life member of the Dandenong Show and had plenty to do with its Berwick counterpart too.
Fifteen years ago he joined the Berwick Show committee to give them a hand – and he’s been doing that ever since.
Earlier this year Mr Gibson received a life membership to the society in recognition of his dedication to the cause.
He served as president in 2013-14 and has taken on the mantle again for the 2019-20 year, a role he was more than happy to reprise.
Leading a committee of about 34 members, he ensures that the end product is a success – an enjoyable, fun weekend for every visitor, made possible thanks to the ideas and commitment of the committee and volunteers.
“Each year after the completion of the show is a very proud moment, because whether you’re the president of just a volunteer helping on the day, I think everyone enjoys the same feeling of having participated in a good event,” he says.
Now in its 171st year, Mr Gibson says there are some things that haven’t changed over the Berwick Show’s duration.
“171 years ago Berwick would’ve been a small country town, and it was an opportunity for all the residents to get together, have some fun and compete and achieve their goals, and celebrate Berwick. I think 171 years later those achievements still hold true today,” he says.
Mr Gibson is also carrying on another legacy as chairman of Alex Scott and Staff. Alex Scott was his great grandfather, and Mr Gibson hopes to see the company get passed from one generation to the next. With one of his sons currently working on the livestock side and a newborn grandson who will one day learn the ropes, that legacy seems assured.
The lifeblood of the community beats strongly in Mr Gibson’s veins, with the Upper Beaconsfield resident also helping to organise the Upper Beaconsfield Village Festival.
While organising events might at first glance seem to be pretty far removed from real estate, Mr Gibson says they aren’t really that different at all.
“I’ve been brought up attending auctions and clearing sales, and each cattle auction, each property auction, each property sale, is an event in itself, so my working life has always been managing and organising events in real estate.
“One of the greatest joys in real estate is putting that sold sticker up and having a successful event, and the show is really no different but we’ve probably got a longer lead time to the show and a lot more people helping. Being involved in the Berwick Show event has been a natural progression for me.”
It’s a fine art to create an event that balances attractions like food and performances with the fun and noise of a carnival, bikes, trucks and fireworks. At the same time, Mr Gibson says the committee is aware of how the show continues to pay tribute to the town’s heritage, even as the demographics of the area evolve.
“It’s important to remember that we were once a country town and also recognise that we’re a developing multicultural community now, so the show’s evolving as the town evolves,” he says.
Asked what he thinks it will look like into the next century, Mr Gibson is pragmatic.
“If you had asked our forefathers where the show would go, their answer would probably have been the same as what I would give: that the success of the show will always depend on the work and effort of the volunteers that run it, and the challenges that they faced back in 1865 are similar to the challenges we face now. That is, what can we do to entertain people and what new events can we do, and how do we pay for them. If you can answer those questions then I’d say it’s got a good future.”
In between so many events, Mr Gibson is a regular ocean swimmer and triathlete.
He has already ticked off one “bucket list swim”, a challenging route across the heads, battling ships and the tide. He has recently returned from some smaller swims in Fiji. He’s hoping to travel the world through “swimcations”, with New Zealand next on the list.
It isn’t everyone’s idea of relaxation, but Mr Gibson says he enjoys the competition and in fact finds it fun.
“I don’t let any stresses get to me. You should work to live, rather than live to work.
“I find that everything I do is about living, whether it’s work or the pursuit of a challenge. Life is full of challenges and the fun of the challenge. Life’s about setting goals and your goals have got to be enjoyable and achievable.”