Coronavirus sees Ariah Park, Cootamundra, Jerilderie BnS balls called off, The Rock left uncertain

 The Rock's first B&S ball - where the organisers forgot the keys and got locked out before the event began. Picture: Supplied
The Rock's first B&S ball - where the organisers forgot the keys and got locked out before the event began. Picture: Supplied

The NSW Riverina lonely hearts will be left looking for love as Bachelor and Spinster's balls are called off across the region.

Ariah Park and Jerilderie have both had their upcoming balls cancelled due to social distancing restrictions and the risks posed by coronavirus.

Cootamundra's 2020 B&S Ball was due to be held in March but was called off when the virus first struck.

B&S balls in the Riverina can attract crowds of up to 2000 revellers for dancing, drinking and mingling and are not generally conducive to the 4 square meters per person rule.

The Rock's ball, the region's youngest, is scheduled for the third Saturday of November and organiser Ash Craig is holding out hope that the event can proceed.

"The next one is Monkerai, it's NSW ball, so we're sort of just waiting to see what they do to see what we will do," Ms Craig said.

The Rock's ball has fluctuated in size since its inception in 2017 but Ms Craig said she would expect between 600 and 900 guests if it can go ahead this November.

"If there's social distancing we probably won't go ahead. With a B&S ball you're in the crowd, you're dancing and you're having fun," she said.

"If you have to stand 1.5 metres away from the person next to you, we don't have enough room in the paddock to fit 500 people."

Ms Craig, now aged 26, has been a longtime fixture at B&S's across the country and started The Rock's ball in 2017 with her mum Kelly.

"I was sick of travelling. The furthest I've travelled to a B&S was eight hours away," Ms Craig said.

Ms Craig, who has chalked up an impressive 61 B&S's, said she knew "a fair few people" who had successfully found lasting love at the event over the years.

COMMUNITY SPIRIT: Kelly Forrest and Ash Craig, who organise The Rock's B&S, pictured here at Ms Forrest's Lockhart Shire Council Citizen of the Year ceremony. Picture: Supplied

COMMUNITY SPIRIT: Kelly Forrest and Ash Craig, who organise The Rock's B&S, pictured here at Ms Forrest's Lockhart Shire Council Citizen of the Year ceremony. Picture: Supplied

"I didn't technically meet my partner at a B&S, I met him at Deni, but it was because of B&S's that we met ... and now he's moved from Geelong to be with me," she said.

"It was originally what the event was for, for country people to meet up and find a partner or find a friend or even a best mate."

Ms Craig attended her first B&S in Ariah Park, which was meant to be held in October but was cancelled on Friday.

That ball, which is one of the biggest in Australia, sees up to 2000 people converge on tiny Ariah Park.

Ariah Park B&S committee treasurer Ebony Worland said the "disappointing" decision to cancel was made to protect the town's population of just 500 people, many of whom are elderly retirees.

"The government has said musical festivals will be the last thing to come back and I just think there would be a lot of restrictions that we would have abide by," Ms Worland said.

Ms Worland said it was "absolutely amazing" to run the event in a normal year.

"It's really good to see all our little businesses get so many patrons come through the door," she said.

"Our pub's booked out for accomodation, our bowling club has people there for breakfast, lunch and dinner all weekend.

"We don't just make money, our whole town makes money ... and obviously all our profit goes back into the town."

Ms Worland said Ariah Park and its B&S committee would regroup for 2021.

"We're absolutely devastated that we can't run one, but everyone committed to jump on board next year," she said.

Cootamundra's Kath O'Brien, who co-organises the local B&S ball as a fundraiser for the town's Strikers soccer club estimates they lost about $25,000 when the event was called off back in March.

"You have all the alcohol you've ordered, all the merchandise you've ordered, that we've had to just kind of sit on," Mrs O'Brien said.

Mrs O'Brien said the "biggest risk" for Cootamundra's B&S was that people might not come back in 2021.

"It's hard enough to get numbers to the smaller country towns anyway," she said. "But it might be a benefit for us because we could very well be one of the first balls to go through next year."

She said she was hoping the region's B&S's would be "bigger and better" when they returned.

This story Will coronavirus claim this country staple, too? first appeared on The Daily Advertiser.