Great memories made but it's time to say goodbye
IT IS the end of an era for the hardworking organisers and volunteers of Southern Downs Harvest as the not-for-profit organisation hosts its final celebration of locally sourced, seasonal produce in Killarney on Saturday, May 25.
Founder and organiser Bev Ruskey said she felt proud to have created a unique experience that brought in visitors from across the country to enjoy fruits of the region's labour.
"People always raved about it," she said.
"I learned that if you put your heart and soul and energy into something you like, other people are going to like it too."
"If you believe in something it will work."
The event was a labour of love from Mrs Ruskey who juggled the organisation alongside a full time job and other fundraising initiatives.
"At times I thought, 'Oh god there's so much to do!'" she said.
"But we had some great people come on board to help over the years and we've always supported each other."
Anna Hamilton joined the organisation three years ago and said she will be sad to say goodbye.
"It's a big job but I'm going to miss it," she said.
"I'm a country girl and I think it was important for people to see the good produce we have here and understand where it came from."
For Mrs Ruskey, it was simply time to step back.
"When I began to plan for this year, I just knew it would be the last time," she said.
"I'm getting old and I've done my bit."
The pair saw many narrowly avoided catastrophes throughout their years at the event.
The year Mrs Hamilton came on board it looked as though the bar would run dry until Mrs Ruskey saved the day, bringing in wine from her cafe.
"No one knew I was tearing my hair out!" Mrs Hamilton said.
Another year the venue looked as though it would disappear under floodwaters.
"I was freaking out," Mrs Ruskey said.
"It stopped raining the day before and the guests ended up squishing around in the wet grass."
But both agree it was worth it to see the community grow through donations raised from ticket sales.
"We raised good money for local producers and growers," Mrs Ruskey said.
"I've seen groups benefit from the money and improve their facilities.
"That's what it's all about."
The organisation will go out on a high during the nearly-sold-out lunch at Melrose Station with plans to offer guests a special dining experience with "good vibes, good company and good music."
Mrs Hamilton said she's determined to take a break from organising and enjoy herself alongside guests this year.
"I look forward to seeing big smiles on their faces," she said.
"It's going to be a wonderful."