This Aussie Is Playing With Fire To Support Drought-Weary Country Shows
While many country events are striving to continue despite drought, there’s light at the end of the tunnel for some in an unexpected form: a fire whip cracker.
With drought taking a toll on finances and morale, many community shows are struggling to continue, but a team effort between entertainers and event organisers is proving successful.
Fire isn’t usually welcomed during a big dry but country shows are ecstatic to see Walter LeSouef roll into town with his Walter Whip and the Flames performance.
The okka entertainer combines fire and whip cracking -- but it’s the faces in the crowd that really light up during his show.
"It’s a real shock to a lot of people when everything is set alight and they realise we’re playing with real fire,” Walter told 10 daily.
Performing at small agricultural shows is something he values, despite the logistical challenges of country travel, including missing flights and having to delay larger performances.
“We do firmly believe in bringing people through their gates, it’s what keeps them going," he said.
Walter recently performed at the Peak Hill Show, which continued despite many rural shows being cancelled due to drought.
Cathy Goodwin from the Peak Hill Show Society said it’s a testament to resilient rural communities.
READ MORE: How You Can Help Drought-Stricken Farmers
“Times will improve and if we don’t support these events in the tough time it will be difficult to get them back when it is good times,” she told 10 daily.
The value of a thrilling performance isn’t lost on her either.
“The shows are a way of getting everyone together to talk, laugh, commiserate and to realise that we are all in the same situation," she said.
"The sense of community was very strong at our show this year and it helped take our minds off the ongoing drought.”
While Walter didn’t grow up in the country, he was always drawn to rural Australia.
Regularly visiting the Australian Woolshed attraction in Brisbane as a child, Walter finally picked up a stock whip of his own at the age of 10.
“I used to come home and use the whip to cut the grass back from the cement, trim the hedges or warn off snakes," he said.
Although he cracked whips all through his teens, it was only four years ago that Walter, now 31, picked up the straps again.
“I went to a rodeo and there was no interim entertainment and I thought this, could be a good space to get out there and crack some whips," he said.
“I had seen the fire whip cracking done in other countries and I wanted to bring it here as part of the show,” he said.
Obviously, this isn’t something to try at home with a burning whip travelling faster than the speed of sound at 450 metres per second.
Even with years of experience, Walter admits to “a few minor mishaps”.
“I catch on fire from time to time,” he laughed. “The girls throw sand at me to help put it out."
Despite performing almost every weekend and running free workshops for kids, it could become more of a hobby, partly because it’s expensive work.
Replacing leather whips doesn’t come cheap, and those used with fire have to be custom made and doused in flammable liquid.
However, he’s pushing on to produce a new show that’ll include horses, fire and whips.
“We’re working on new content at the moment that is Lord of the Rings and Games of Thrones inspired,” he said.
“It’s because I’m very passionate about it and want to keep the sport alive.”
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