The revival of a harvest ball in the Chapman Valley, WA, celebrates what’s great about life on the land.

Story By Kerry Faulkner

Fundraising for a tiny country school has revived a community celebration that died out more than 50 years ago.
The celebration is the Chapman Valley Harvest Ball and it was resurrected this year by Chapman Valley Primary School Parents and Citizens Association, whose powerful 30-strong membership matches the number of students attending the school, 40 kilometres north-east of Geraldton in the state’s mid-west Wheatbelt.
Secretary Jane Barndon says it was a daring move away from traditional fundraisers such as the Mother’s Day cake stall, and a big gamble for the P&C who agonised over its likely success when ticket sales were terrifyingly slow. Not since the district’s heady boom times of the 1950s, when the valley population edged over 1500, had harvest been celebrated with a fancy dance, and a lot has changed since.
The community-hall movie and music nights had been silenced by a combination of crushing wheat quotas, the closing of the railway line, drought, flood and dwindling populations. And the trials for farmers continue today – amid the ball festivities farmers’ chaplain Eldred Royce offered a prayer to those in the 4000 square kilometre shire, mostly the farmers north-east of Yuna, who wouldn’t harvest a crop at all this year because of poor rainfall.
“Rural Australia has always faced challenges and faced them head-on,” Jane says. “But never before has there been a set of obstacles like the ones all rural communities are experiencing today."

This story excerpt is from Issue #92

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2014