IN THE BEGINNING – Tasmania, 1950s
One of the first articles I sold, many years ago, was about the Ulverstone Agricultural Show. It was the annual highlight of my childhood. My father was on the show committee, so thankfully we attended rain, hail or shine. In good weather my sister and I wore our Sunday School Anniversary dresses, complete with little white shoes and handbag!
” Now don’t waste all your money on those clowns!” we were told. Of course we did just that, lured by the spruiker’s chant, ‘EVERY CHILD WINS A PRIZE!’ My favourite was a plastic rose brooch which squirted water at unsuspecting sniffers. The ‘proper’ prizes were dreadful ornaments, made of Plaster of Paris I suspect. Our dressing table was littered with them for years. Oh dear, the memories are so poignant my heart hurts.
Around five o’clock my dairy farmer Dad would round us up and utter the dreaded words, ” Time to go home and milk the cows; you’ve had a big day.” And so we had.
SYDNEY’S ROYAL EASTER SHOW 2014
Last year, after a gap of about ten years, Rob and I went to famous Sydney Royal Easter Show. We set off very early to avoid the crowds. Sure enough, the train out to Olympic Park was empty. Sadly, this was because everyone had got there before us!! For heaven’s sake…did they sleep outside the gates?
Our first port of call was the District Exhibits They are creative displays assembled entirely from regional farm produce; grains, seeds, wool, fruits and vegetables. This year the multiple prize winner was Northern Districts. Their design represented times of plenty, but also the challenges faced by Australian farmers, including flood, fire and drought.
We were unexpectedly delayed by the arrival of Prince William and Kate, but it was exciting to see them close up.
Of course the show is primarily about livestock;
Preparing for judging takes time, and dedication. But the winning of ribbon makes it all worth while. I loved this proud little girl, and I hope she won her event.
GRAB AN AXE MATE!
Competitive wood chopping, especially tree felling, is hugely popular at the Easter show. Although I left my home state nearly forty years ago, I still support the Tasmanians over the New South Welshmen. This is because my maternal uncles once competed in the sport. Also, more than 20 years ago we watched my Aunt Leah’s wood supplier Matthew Gurr, from the Tasmanian town of Deloraine, win the world championship in tree felling. He has won a total of sixteen times. I was amazed when he appeared in this year’s line-up of twelve finalists, along with his 17 year old son Daniel, who weighs in at just 58 kilos. Veteran Matthew placed a creditable 3rd, and Daniel was hailed as a future world champion.
ALL THE FOOD OF THE FAIR
How sad I feel for children whose parents take a packed lunch to the show. Dear me, this is an occasion to throw caution to the wind and eat all the junk food you can manage. Perennial favourites such as doughnuts, pies and battered hotdogs on sticks (known as Dagwood Dogs) are now being threatened by a heavenly newcomer….Chips on a Stick; thin slices of potato, battered and deep fried. Fairy floss is still a sticky delight for tiny tots, and the contents of show-bags enable dentists to upgrade their cars and book overseas trips!
A word here about the origins of the show-bag for my Glasgow friend Christine. They began as simple sample bags promoting Australian produce, with miniature containers of honey and vegemite and tiny packets of rice-bubbles. A cheap novelty toy was included, and a packet of lollies (Fruit Tingles or Life Savers). My siblings and I were enchanted by them. But today there are over 300 sh0w-bags to choose from, housed in a vast pavilion. Every brand of commercial confectionery is represented. Others are inspired by movie superheroes, and can cost a small fortune.
Parents suspend the bags from the handles of pushchairs; a risky business. Invariably the weight limit is exceeded, the chair flies backwards, and unrestrained children are ejected. If a half eaten cloud of fairy floss lands in animal manure the situation is almost beyond redemption.
There is nothing quite like an Australian show. It is an amalgamation of funfair, food fair, craft show and English county agricultural exhibition. The ten day Sydney Royal Easter Show is the biggest in Australia; when the country comes to the city. However, it is the little one day Ulverstone show that I remember most fondly. It takes place close to my mother’s birthday and I always dreamed of throwing a rope quoit in sideshow alley and winning her a gold watch.
You might like to compare the big Sydney show with a regional one, at Bathurst. If so, click HERE
I would love to hear your own memories of the show, or its equivalent. You can leave a comment in the box below. Remember to complete the anti-spam sum before you press SUBMIT.