Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Regional Australia - Country Shows

Photo: Gordon Smith, Dorrigo Show. Gordon's caption reads in his usual terse but descriptive style:

This is a general view taken to illustrate a few of the sorts of things you’d find at a typical rural Show. On the right is the tent in which The Magician is entertaining some children; in the centre fore- and middle-ground some visitors catch up with the gossip and decide where to go next; behind that a couple of food stalls; then at the left rear are the Dodgems.

Few people growing up in the city with the big city shows such as the Sydney Royal Easter Show can understand the excitement that sometimes attaches to shows in smaller communities.

Preparation begins as soon as the previous show has been completed. There are no staff. Everything is done by volunteers.

As the show approaches, excitement increases. There is cooking to be done, preserves to be made, various crafts to be finished, vegetables to be gathered, livestock to be prepared. Catering has to be arranged, a myriad of logistic details sorted out. Then the showmen arrive and erect their tents and rides.

Show day dawns. People gather, children rush around the sideshows and play with each other. Their elders tour the pavilion to see who has won what, always a matter of great interest, watch the ring events. There is constant gathering as people meet and exchange gossip. Then it's all over for another year.

Local shows are not as strong as they once were. Properties are bigger, so that there are fewer families on the land. As families moved away, many of the towns that depended on them have struggled. Whole show traditions such as the boxing tents have gone as fashions changed. Yet somehow the shows survive, constantly reinventing themselves.

To the visitor, the shows provide a window into local life. To the locals, the shows are an opportunity to meet each other, to say hello to the people they know in their broader community.

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