It can be a short path from the main ring of the Tenterfield Showground to the studio stage of a national television broadcaster, if young Thomas Petrie’s experience is anything to go by.
Seven-year-old Thomas is a keen whipcracker, taking out first place in his age category at this year’s show. When grandparents Chris and Cathy Miller saw an ad for a TV show for kids aged 3-13 with a unique talent, they urged Thomas’s mum Karen to apply for the opportunity.
“You know your own kids are special but I wasn’t sure if they’d be interested,” Mrs Petrie said.
Several months later, on the May Day long weekend, she completed the online application form, setting off a whirlwind of events that saw her and Thomas flown to Sydney for rehearsals and filming and back home by Friday of the same week.
“I didn’t release it was so near the end of the application period,” she said.
“We got a phone call the next day (after applying), from a lady who wanted Thomas to audition the same day. I said ‘Do you know where we live?’”
No problem, was the reply. Auditions were done via Skype.
After a frantic day of online auditions and emails flying backwards and forwards, Mrs Petrie was informed by 7pm that Channel 7 executives had approved Thomas for the Little Big Shots show which had nearly finished filming. Thomas and Mrs Petrie were flown to Sydney the following day where they also had the opportunity to meet up with Mrs Petrie’s family from the South Coast.
Despite the aplomb with which he handled performing under pressure in front of a large audience and bright studio lights, Thomas said he was a little nervous to start with but host Shane Jacobson soon made him relax.
Thomas had been primed by a producer with a few questions that the host may ask, but was a bit thrown by the way Mr Jacobson asked what his parents did for a living. This sent the pair off on a comedy tangent about Thomas’s parents spending their days floating around the house. (Karen and Damien Petrie are both teachers at Stanthorpe State High School, for the record.)
Despite the nervous start, Thomas ended up relishing the experience and became quite the celebrity after the episode aired on September 3. He even featured in spreads in two national magazines and in TV guides.
Mrs Petrie said Thomas was recognised everywhere the family went after the show aired, and his little sisters Georgia and Hannah are very proud of him. The family moved from Tenterfield up the road to Stanthorpe a few years ago, but are still regular visitors.
The Tenterfield Show Society was so thrilled with the publicity it received when Thomas pulled out his blue ribbon on national television that then-secretary Kim Rhodes attempted to buy the family free tickets when Webers Circus came to town recently. Hearing of his celebrity, however, the circus gave the family complimentary tickets anyway.
Not intending to rest on his fame, Mrs Petrie said Thomas and his whip will be back to compete at next year’s Tenterfield Show and he’s already practising some new tricks.
In case you missed it, here’s Thomas’s appearance on Little Big Shots...