The good old fashioned country show is something that resonates vividly in the Australian experience for many locals. In the lead up to the the big one, the Sydney Royal Easter Show, there seems to be a flurry of ‘carnival’ activity in many regional locations around the country. Having grown up in the bush, we have vivid memories as kids of the exciting build up, followed by the junk food and adrenaline fuelled evening at the local show. As adults, and with significantly weaker stomachs, this excitement seems to wane as you focus on the hassle of the crowds, the expense, the noise, the mud and the list goes on. Therefore, it was with a touch of dread that we decided to bite the bullet recently, and pop along to the 142nd Armidale show with our two kids, with surprising results.
The evening started well as we jagged a parking spot right across the road from the entrance gates. After paying our twenty bucks entry to a friendly gentleman who said “don’t worry about paying for the kids love”, we promptly ran into some friends who were relatively new to town and country life. They said they had come to try and work out what these rural ‘shows’ were all about, and after three hours they were none the wiser. Maybe that is the secret to enjoying a country show … just don’t try to understand why?
After a very painstaking walk past the bright lights of sideshow alley and the show bag stalls, with promises of returning later, our first stop was the main arena. Low and behold the Crack Up Sisters were in full swing with their ridiculous but hilarious combination of acrobatics, whip cracking and slapstick story telling. We had seen these guys perform in outback Queensland during our road trip almost two years previously, so it was another good omen for the evening to come.
Next it was time to check out the rides. Pretty soon we arrived at the ghost train, a type of mini roller coaster that made it’s way through a haunted house full of nasty surprises. Before we knew it, for the first time ever, our 7 and 4 year old had saddled up for an amusement park ride together without their Mum or Dad for moral support. They took off full of smiles and bravado, but fifteen bucks and 90 seconds later they exited the other end looking as pale as ghosts themselves. We’re still not 100% sure what went on inside that haunted house – our son says it’s too scary to talk about!
This was probably not a bad way to start as it tempered the kids’ enthusiasm for lining up for any more overpriced rides – for a while at least. We soon ran into other families, which gave the adults times to breathe. The kids could now bounce their excitement off each other and go on rides together, sparing the adults the threat of that nauseous feeling for the rest of the evening. A definite win-win! The next hour or so seemed to become a game of walking a few metres, then putting your hand back in your wallet. The kids tried new rides, played sideshow games where ‘everyone wins a prize’, petted some terrified farm animals and ate fairy floss and hot chips; and you couldn’t wipe the smile from their faces.
We finished off the night settling in for the fireworks display. Due some relative lax OHS standards, our proximity to these explosive devices meant that the show was very loud and surprisingly impressive. The kids reactions morphed from totally terrified to somewhat guarded awe, and we remarked at the time that this would probably be the first fireworks show that they will remember. It was now well past bedtime and time to head for home, but, the kids inevitably dug their heels in saying how much they really wanted to see the demolition derby (cue whiny voice). We pulled out our trump card escape plan, a visit to the show bag stalls. We managed to escape with a combination of bubble gum and good old fashioned joke bag, including the likes of fake snot, bug infused ice cubes, zombie face mask and the all conquering whoopee cushion. Matt is not sure whether he or the kids enjoyed them more!
All-in-all our country show experience was noisy, expensive and fairly low on nutritional value. But, at the end of the day, we are sure it will be a memorable event in our kids lives, just like it was when we were kids. And despite these shortcomings, a country show is generally guaranteed to create a few laughs and some memorable family moments … just don’t try to understand why.
Thanks to Rowena Naylor and Kathryn Jewkes for the show pics.