As I wandered   around Sydney’s Royal Easter Show on my last visit I was struck by how accurately this iconic event reflects changes in our society.  The cookery section is a classic case in point.

Bakery entries  have dwindled  alarmingly in size and quality. I didn’t see a single sponge cake or Swiss roll.  And where were the Anzac biscuits?  The  fruit cakes were a pale reflection of their former selves. I blame those reality TV cooking shows, where contestants try to balance a gold flake on a concoction of almond milk and rice flour.

Sorry, just not up to the mark.

The decorated cake section was an even bigger disappointment to a baby boomer like myself.  The subtle colours and delicate lace-work of times gone by  (below left) have given way to, well something quite different (below right).   My late grandmother  (a perennial exhibitor in her local show) would have had a heart attack on the spot.

Even the judge seemed to be wondering whether one entry passed muster as a christening cake.  Mind you, as a bird lover, I thought it was pretty good.

On the plus side, two sections of the show have expanded beyond belief. The poultry section reflects the current passion for keeping backyard chickens. There is even an art competition based on chooks.  Likewise, there is  renewed interest in bee keeping and varieties of honey. We are now far more environmentally conscious.

The Country Women’s Association remains  a popular stop for families, but…..well this photo says it all. Grandma and Grandad piling cream onto their scones in companionable anticipation. Mum and dad checking their phones.  What is that little girl thinking I wonder?  Probably hoping Grandma will hand her another  scone  while her parents are distracted.

Our multi-cultural society has provided enormous diversity in Easter Show snack food. Plates of Asian and Middle Eastern  delicacies have become very popular Why I persist in buying those truly awful  old Dagwood Dogs  (battered saveloys) is beyond me. Nostalgia is certainly  a powerful force.

The Dagwood Dog lingers on. Yes, that’s me about to tuck in.

By the way, the ferris wheel in the background is  benign  compared to the terrifying rides new technology has produced. Stomachs must be stronger too, although I avoided  walking  under the more alarming examples.

As for  show bags. Oh my hat!  I bought a Minties bag for $10 and it didn’t even include a toy. I guess we did have to move on from the 1950’s, when even little girls like me had a passion for guns.

Sideshow alley, still such an integral part of the show, was so politically incorrect in my childhood that it makes me cringe. The following is a newspaper report from 1930, but it was identical in the fifties. I have to confess that aged eight or nine I paid my two bob (20 cents) to see  every creepy sideshow, including  the boxing, the quarter man, the half-man half-woman, and  Bubbles the nude fan dancer! There was no age limit.  Good grief, what an education it was for an unworldly  little farm kid.

Oh the memories (TROVE Newspaper Archive)

Far greater attention is paid to entertaining children these days, which is wonderful. There are  all sorts of  craft activities, and more  hands-on interaction with farm animals.   Yes, we see our culture changing year by year out at Homebush, but little kids enjoy the Royal Easter Show just as much as I did.

Animal petting at Sydney's Easter Show.

Joy at the Easter Show.


  1. Looks to be great event, and one I’d certainly enjoy. I love the Shows here in the UK, and many similarities with exhibits etc. from the W.I. (Women’s Institute) of which my maternal grandmother was a founder member. Maybe more of an agricultural theme though for Shows in Yorkshire. Thank goodness for the influence of grandparents to that little girl who was watching them shove scone and cream into their faces vs parents on their phones. Grrrh! I finally see what you mean about those exciting goodie bags; but as for that Dagwood Dog, it is positively obscene.
    I always looked forward to the Flower Show in my grandparents’ village (although there was much more than flower exhibits there, including a gymkhana) which took place during August when we were visiting. My Aunt dressed up my cousins, my siblings, and myself to enter the ‘fancy dress’. My brother & sister went as ‘Darby & Joan’ (an old couple name after the old people’s clubs here), and myself with an embroidered blouse, a dirndl skirt, and headscarf tied under the back of my hair. When one of the judges asked me what I was, I answered ‘a pheasant’! I should have said a peasant of course, but didn’t know what one of those was, so said a name I remembered. I couldn’t understand why everyone laughed so much. It marked me for life, tender plant that I am!

    • Pauline

      The Easter show is a cross between a UK agricultural show and a giant fair. I’ve been to the Royal Bath Show, and the Cumberland Show. I remember at the latter they were spruiking doughnuts with ‘free’ cinnamon! Loved the Cumberland wrestling. Your description of your outfit does rather fit a pheasant in full plumage. Hahaha

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