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Mike is ‘calling it a day’ after 13 years at the AELEC

Manilla’s Mike Rowland tipped his hat as a ‘Good Morning’ gesture to Tamworth’s AELEC co-workers for the final time last week after a stint of 13 years as the popular facility’s Manager.

While Mike said that he’ll miss the job of organizing the multitude of events at Tamworth Regional Council’s Australian Equine Livestock & Event Centre – a section of his working life he describesas a massive learning experience teamed with meeting some of the nicest people from all over the country – indications are that his big shoes will be capably filled by Prue Simson.

“Prue’s knowledge in this area is fantastic. She’s had experience at managing both events and venues all around the world including the Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast and the London Olympics,” Mike said.

For many years, AELEC has been the home for some of the biggest prizemoney earning events in Australia, events that attract competitors from all over the nation, one in particular being the annual National Cutting Horse Association’s (NCHA) Futurity – one of the biggest performance horse events in the Southern Hemisphere.

“Along with the NCHA Futurity we also get packed crowds at the PBR (Professional Bull Riders), the ABCRA (Australian Bushmen’s Campdraft& Rodeo Association) National Finals and of course, the 10-day Nutrien Classic Campdraft& Sale each February. The growth of these events has been massive, with the grounds becoming home for visitors from all over the country for days on end. Visitors are massive for the city. Competitors park their trucks up for the duration, and many use it as an excuse to either get their vehicles serviced, have new tyres fitted or necessary mechanical work done. To see 3000 people parked up or moving around the facility is a real buzz.”

Like any dedicated employee, Mike – who joined the AELEC team after experiences in the insurance industry and several years with Tamworth Jockey Club, has always taken his job roles seriously.

“You have to be serious when you’ve committed yourself to managing a 60 million dollar asset for the Tamworth region. In the job, I’d see people who’d put blood, sweat and tears into coming here and doing their best. So I’d try and do everything I could for them – they’d come from all parts of the country and spend a fortune. Alot of families too have experienced our facilities, and moved to Tamworth.

“Some come here only once a year, but they remember you. And all the friendships we’ve (with wife Kylie) made over the years has made it all worthwhile. My highlight of working at AELEC has definitely been the people you meet in all disciplines. I’ve met people from all disciplines that I’d never previously have had the chance to talk with over the table. They’re lasting friendships.”

One fond memory though for Mike was being instrumental in organising the official opening of AELEC back in February 2009 where he worked alongside the likes of Heath Harris (Australia’s master saddlemaker, trainer and elite horseman linked with movies like Phar Lap and The Man From Snowy River) to organise a special program.

“That was very memorable. But we also have many non-equine events, one in particular was the Harley Owner Group’s National Rally where we had 2500 bikers over four days. We produced an absolute cracker of a show for them – Kylie even organised a musical ride which featured both the bikes and horses side by side. The Dog Agility was also a highlight. It catered for dog owners from all over Australia, and while it wasn’t a big money event, a title for those competitors was just as important to them as the equine bloke in the big money competitions.”

 Mike said that in “normal” times (pre-Covid), AELEC could boast 280 utilised days across a year, boasting 35 individual events with an average seven-day length of stay.

“We even get non-horsey local people bringing visiting relatives out to have a look over the place. It’s really big for Tamworth. After making the initial investment, Council has continued to back the facility by understanding the need to continue with its growth to stay at the top. I’ve seen a lot of great additions to amenities and the property itself double in size during my 13 years. Local people can see the value in AELEC, and that’s good.”

The next step in Mike Rowland’s working life will focus on placing more time into event announcing and continue to be involved in the equine industry on a consultative basisthrough his own Equine Action business. By Vinnie Todd