Roll up, roll up: our love affair with shows
Roll up, roll up. The Show is coming to town.
Last weekend it was the good citizens of Castlemaine who had the opportunity to witness the quality of the field in the bacon carcass competition. While next weekend Murwullimbah will have its chance to put on display the very finest in poultry that its region has to offer.
Late spring is the height of Show season and a couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the Royal Geelong Show. I was there both as a local politician and the parent of three eager kids capable of sniffing out show bags, prizes and sugary treats with the efficiency of feeding piranhas.
As a parent it is easy to misread the show. The kids will lead you to places designed for their pleasure and to break your will into a million pieces.
Walking down sideshow alley is a parenting version of one of the twelve labours of Hercules. Retrieving a three headed dog from hell is nothing compared to running the gauntlet of an assortment of spruikers selling rides, show bags and chances to win.
Here, the capacity to spend money seems limitless: $10 to wield a sledgehammer three times sending a projectile skyward toward a bell which only Popeye could ring; $6 to put five balls in the mouth of a clown. In each case “everyone wins a prize”, and they do.
Show bags represent the all-ordinaries index of the show economy. But this year’s prices proved to be recession defiant with a steady bullishness that left Wall Street in their wake. Inside them can be found the full array of mediums for the delivery of sugar and the very finest products that the small plastics manufacturing sector can make.
Every year the rides seem to become more extreme. Is NASA augmenting its budget by licensing their IP on the machines used to test astronauts for the space program? In any event, you can now enjoy your body being thrown around in ways for which it was not designed, leaving you nauseous and green, all for $7.
As the experience of walking down this alley challenges the emotional stability of parents sending them on a beeline to the nearest hospitality tent, for children it is the most exciting moment of the year. The bright lights, the spruiker’s voices, the fairy floss and the shrieks from those on the rides melt into a heavenly sensual brew which leaves the kids in a heady state of giddiness.
Despite the tribulations, as a parent you cannot help but smile.
The Show is so much more than lights and noise. It is perhaps the year’s most eclectic gathering of sub-cultures.
Those who run sideshow alley live the nomadic life of a circus troupe while at the heart of the Show are a group wedded to the permanency of a single piece of land: the region’s farmers. These two groups are the Show’s professionals. For one the Show is their bread and butter. For the other, it is an annual high water mark – the best results of a year’s work. As you look at the farmer with her prize angus bull you know you are witnessing a labour of love.
The Show is also a celebration of skills which could never get the attention of mass media. For highland dancers, wood choppers, and ferret racers the Show is their Olympics. Months of work are finely tuned to peak at this moment in competitions whose dramatic suspense is worth its weight in gold.
These competitions are a window into the passions of Australians. The precision of the axemen and the flair of the dancers speak to many nights after work, many gatherings on the weekend which together tells a story about the wondrous goings on within our communities that normally we never get to see.
The Show is also a place of the political old school. As the local member I join the ranks of the spruikers thrusting balloons into the hands of small kids in prams, while mum and dad take the chance to ask about their medicare levy and share their views on the running of the country. It is politics as it should be.
The Show is the chance to have a gander at what others do. It is the ultimate coming together of the town. It is the best family event of the year. And it is why a large proportion of our country – millions of Australians – attends a Show each year.
Wherever you fit into the Show, you have to love it.
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