One of my earliest childhood memories was of the great deal of preparation involved in going to the Lismore Agricultural Show. I don’t know how much broader in the community the tradition was, but in my family at least, you always had a new “outfit” for the Lismore Show. I remember the anticipation, the day off school, the hours wandering through the pavilions and through sideshow alley. I also remember the year when I got lost coming out of the haunted house and making the sensible decision – I thought – that if I couldn’t find my family, I should walk home. As an eight-year-old it obviously made sense to walk 5 km, though in hindsight I realise it must have caused my sister, who was in charge of my supervision for the day, considerable distress.
Over the years I’ve been to a number of agricultural shows, including the Royal Shows in Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide (mostly just over-inflated side-shows), as well as smaller agricultural shows in Bourke, Renmark, Wagga Wagga, Lockhart, Fred’s Pass, and numerous other locations. And of course, I’ve been every year for the last ten years or so the Royal Easter Show in Sydney. Although it’s always work that’s the fundamental reason for attending, I also really like going to the show, as a reminder of my own “rural roots”, which is important as I continue to lead an increasingly urban lifestyle.
Early this morning, I made a close inspection of the preparations for today’s cattle judging at the Royal Easter Show. Some were just being washed, while others were having their coats clippered and having boot-polish applied to their hoofs so they would look as close to perfect as possible. While some of the cattle happily endured the process, others found it all a bit of a drag being primped in that way. If you can get there early, it really is the best time to go the Royal Easter Show, long before it becomes just one great big sideshow, as you can see all of the preparation, as well as some of the less “showy” events like sheep judging. As always, “my excuse” for going to the Royal Easter Show is work, but I also really enjoy going to the show for my own personal satisfaction. Wandering around, I snapped a few interesting photographs which I’ve chosen to share with you, dear reader.
The Animals: Rest assured, taking the photograph of these goats with the bars of the enclosure they were in is not a pro-animal, anti-farming protest on my part. No, I just liked the contrast of the silver bars against the softness of the sunlight coming through the window and resting on the faces of the goats. About five minutes after taking this, I saw a man talking to teenage girl resting on a bale in an enclosure of her own. Oh my goodness, I wanted to take the photograph, as she herself looked like she was on display. I also took a nice photograph of some retiring cattle (photo) and of horses crossing (photo).
“The Show”: One of the highlights of the Royal Easter Show each year is the Grand Parade. As I was wandering down through the cattle pavillions mid afternoon, I snapped this photograph of some of those participating in the Grand Parade in preparation. If you were on the back of a truck dressed as a princess on a warm day, surrounded by other people dressed as chickens, you would probably have that look on your face too.
Arts & Crafts: To be honest, I wasn’t all that impressed with the arts and crafts this year. Amongst the paintings and photographs there was nothing truly memorable, and thematically I thought the works could have come from any time in history, as opposed to a time of one of the worst droughts in recorded history. In cake decoration, this year, I noticed a trend towards floral imitation. In the District Exhibits, there was nothing spectacular, although I agreed with the “People’s Choose” decision of Northern NSW, as I thought the moving butterfly was very good. I quite liked the first prize jams (photo), though and I thought the fruit cakes were quite good this year, with hundreds on display. Possibly the biggest fruit cake display I can recall in the many years I’ve been going to the show.
Visiting the Royal Easter Show early in the morning, before it turns into a sideshow, and wandering around the cattle, sheep and horse pavillions was a bitter-sweet reminder of my life before I became a “city boy”. I didn’t grow up on a farm, but I did grow up in a family with a strong farming awareness. Living on the outskirts of town, we had cattle just over the back fence. Often they would break through the fence, and they were often marched down the street on their way to market. It was also my job as a child to jump over the fence to collect manure for the garden. Collecting the shit with a shovel, putting it in a bucket, adding water, and then turning it into something suitable for mum’s geraniums. That rural awareness also came from my dad who grew up on a dairy farm and from my uncle Barney who owned a mixed farm, though mostly dairy at Goonengerry, near Mullumbimby. Living in the outback for a while, and on an orchard in South Australia, went a long way to re-inforcing my own personal identity as someone “from the country”. But in the last few years, the last four or five, I’ve found myself leading an increasingly urban life. Mostly my extended family still lives in country towns, but a few of us live in capital cities as well, and aside from trips home to the country, we don’t have all that much contact with the land anymore. And as my job has changed, I’m also having less contact with the country as well, and I miss it. I discussed this last night at the pub with fellow blogger Mark who reminded me, there are great things about the city I’d miss if I moved back to the country. I guess it’s all about finding the balance between the two lifestyles I love. So I guess I’m not really a city boy, and I’m not really a country boy, so what does that make me?