STEPPING BACK: Former Outdoor Leisure Show event organiser Howard Atkinson has handed over the reins.
STEPPING BACK: Former Outdoor Leisure Show event organiser Howard Atkinson has handed over the reins. Marc Stapelberg

After 20 years organiser decides to hit the road

IT WAS in October 1996 that Howard Atkinson first took up the role of fundraising and events coordinator for the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service.

He suggested to then-manager Perry Wells that they look at staging a caravan and camping show as an annual fundraiser.

"There were a few of these events starting in Sydney and Newcastle, and I thought with the vast waterways, camping areas and our recreational way of life on the North Coast, it was a perfect place to stage such an event,” Mr Atkinson said.

"With a bit of discussion we decided to run it.”

The first event in 1997 was scheduled to be held at the Lismore Turf Club, but heavy rain forced the event to relocate to the Alstonville Showground.

Despite the rough start, the event resulted in approximately 5000 visitors and 72 exhibitors.

"We were extremely happy with the response from the industry, we had 72 exhibitors and they came from a long way to promote their products,” Mr Atkinson said.

"I knew then that this was going to be a successful event in future years.”

In 1998, the event shifted to its present location at the Lismore Showground, and enjoyed more than 12,000 visitors at last year's event.

With Mr Atkinson at the helm, the event has since grown into regional NSW's largest outdoor leisure event.

After more than 20 years, Mr Atkinson has decided to step back from the role.

Ange Esdaile will take over as the exhibitor manager for the 2018 Outdoor Leisure Show, and is looking forward to helping the show continue to grow and thrive.

Mr Atkinson will continue to consult and assist Mrs Esdaile as he transitions out of the role.

From all of those who have been involved in the event, they thank Mr Atkinson for his extensive and generous contributions and service for the past two decades.