Where the Countryside Comes to the City: Country Shows in Australia

ANZ-dec15I know it was only a couple of weeks ago I reprinted my Australia and New Zealand magazine article about supermarkets in Australia, but I am running a little behind.

I like to put these reprints online about a month after they’ve appeared in the magazine, so I’m running behind because this one appeared in their December issue. As I also have a Winter Special to squeeze in before I can put January’s article online, I have much catching up to do.

So, let’s get stuck in to the article straightaway, it’s about country shows in Australia.

Country shows

country showsEvery year here in Brisbane we have a thing called the Ekka. The Ekka is actually the Royal Queensland Show, but it became known as the exhibition. Exhibition, being a rather long word, was then shortened to Ekka.

But what is it?

I could simply describe it as a country show, but it’s much more than that. It’s Queensland’s largest annual event and it’s been taking place for 138 years. Around 17,000 people turned up for that first show, arriving on horses and wearing their finest clothes. These days over 400,000 people pass through the gates during this 10 day event dressed, of course, mostly in T-shirts and shorts.

It’s not just Queensland that has these kinds of shows, they take place all around Australia in every major capital.

Sydney has the Sydney Royal Easter Show and there is the Perth Royal Show. Then every other capital city has the Royal – name of city here – Show. Each has a local public holiday thrown in to sweeten the deal. They are mostly described as where the countryside comes to the city, and it is.

Australia does have an awful lot of countryside and by comparison, not that many cities. So I’m sure you can see how big these events are. I would go as far as saying these country shows are an intrinsic part of life in Australia, you need to learn to love them.

For some men, like me, who really aren’t into wood chopping competitions or milking cows, these shows are about as much fun as shopping for shoes. But it is a family day out so you need to embrace these things. And the kids absolutely love it, here’s why.

Showbags! Yes, showbags.

showbagsThe first ever showbag was a free bag of coal for every visitor; not these days. There are hundreds and hundreds of showbags to choose from; every cartoon character, every sweet manufacturer, every kid’s comic, they all seem to have a showbag of their own. And for something like $10-$25 you can pick up a showbag jampacked with often over $100 worth of your favourite merch. What could be more appealing than, for example, a Tim Tam showbag?

There’s more to these shows than showbags though. There are fairground rides, sideshows, cute and fluffy farmyard animals, street entertainers, competitions and agricultural displays all topped off with a firework and laser light display when it gets dark. One of the favourite snacks of these shows is the Dagwood Dog, a batter dipped hot dog on a stick smothered in tomato ketchup.

dagwood dogAnother favourite is the Strawberry Sundae; I am reliably informed that something like 10 tons of strawberries will be used to make something like 145,000 sundaes at this year’s event.

This is the kind of community event that Australia does best. Be warned though, it’s quite an expensive day out this one. Once you’ve paid to get in, paid individually for each ride, all those showbags and munched on a few of the favourite traditional treats, it’s easy to chew through $300 for the average family. Or even more, if you decide to buy a car, or a caravan, or even an Australian Akubra hat. Yes, you can buy all these things at the Ekka.

Gotta love the Ekka, I’ve learned to.

To watch a video about the Ekka, something that wasn’t available to the magazine readers, visit:

If you don’t want to watch that video, at least say hi to the llama…

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