I left home an Ekka Virgin, but by noon I felt as if I'd been around the block quite a few times! After nearly three years living in Brisbane, I decided that this was the year to take on the Ekka, Queensland's premier agricultural show. In our first year, conversion from Rands to Aussie dollars was still too fresh in the memory banks, as we'd only been earning dollars for a short while, and the costs after conversion just seemed exorbitant. Last year's swine flu scare kept me as far away as possible, but this year I relented and took my 12 year old along.
We decided to drive in, as I had dropped and collected my older daughter the day before and sussed out where the parking area was. But the fleecing began right there – $10 down.
Entry into the Ekka wasn't too bad, as they have a couple of ‘family deals' and we went with the one adult + one child at $33. Our entry gate deposited us right into Sideshow Alley, and I need to digress a little here.
I grew up in Welkom and an annual highlight was the local agricultural show. We got to go during the week as a school outing, where we generally had to spend some time filling in a questionnaire, but most of the day was spent on rides, visiting the various stalls and seeing how much free junk we could gather in the various bags retailers handed out. And, of course, there were the gimmicks, such as bird whistles, gadgets to chop, clean, whisk, and generally help you part with your money and cupboard space in your home, as quickly as possible.
The Ekka took me straight back to the Welkom show, but on a bigger and grander scale. Sideshow Alley went on forever, with the rides looking clean and sparkly, and the prizes from the games of chance looking fresh and plump and very take-homeable! My memories were more of moth eaten soft toys in dusty plastic bags that had been hanging there for years because no one had the skill to get the enormously heavy ball into the hole hidden in the shadows! In fact, my daughter won a heart shaped soft-toy within five minutes of arriving – and another $5 down.
We moved on to the animal area, and this really amazed me! The first shed we entered was the goat shed – I call it the goats in coats shed! At least half of the prize winning goats on display were wearing very natty coats! And they all had collars! There were brown ones, and black ones; big ones, pregnant ones, girls and boy ones, and a whole lot of baby ones! Their names were all up on their cages and some even had very proud little famers camped out with them!
The sheep and the cows were much the same – prize winning animals displayed at their best, with names and fancy signs, and loads of very proud farmer types around. Now, Welkom also had its farming types and farm animals – it was the agricultural show after all! But no self-respecting “townie” would amble into the animal enclosures and ooh and aah at the prize winning breeds – we stayed as far away from the smelly parts of the show as we possibly could. But Aussies, whether they are from farm stock, or city dwellers revel in the farming way of life, and take great pride in their farmers!
We then stumbled across the main arena where horses were on display and were obviously being paraded before the judges. Caught a glimpse of riders lined up in their hats and coats ready to take on some enormous looking jumps. The path around the top of the arena took us along a main street, lined with interesting tents and caravans, like the one encouraging us to “sign up to be an army reservist”. By now we were starting to feel a little foot sore and weary, and so headed in the direction of the Showbag Pavilion.
Now, I had heard about the Ekka showbags, and had experienced the “showbag” idea at our local Brookfield show, but nothing had prepared me for the sheer enormity of the concept! Inside an enormous warehouse, there were aisles and rows of showbag stands, with the contents of each offering stuck up on the wall behind the stand, and lists of the immense “value” you'd be getting for your small payment. The showbags ranged in price from $6 to over $20, and the variety made it very hard to choose. We managed to drag ourselves away with only five of them weighing us down – another $76 down.
But on our way out of the pavilion, we were sidelined by a series of novelty stores. These sold all sorts of gadgets designed to make your life easier, simpler, better, faster – with a quick demonstration to prove it! I came away with a nifty back support frame for my brother-in-law, and a seriously nifty trolley “liner” – to enhance my Aldi shopping experience. Another $40.
A trip past the Woolworths Fresh Food Pavilion on our way out for a little sustenance proved to be easier said than done. All sorts of lovely smelling and infinitely calorie rich morsels to tempt us, but sore feet and long queues led us to the wrong choices at $32. We were all Ekka'd out!
To see the Ekka in its entirety would take more than the day that we had set aside. We missed out on things like the wood chop arena, national science week pavilion, Queensland Government pavilion, Flower and Garden pavilion, and a myriad of other delights – something to tempt everyone. But we did see the firemen, selling their hunky calendars for 2011 at $10. Not too sure how many of the firemen pictured in the calendar were actually selling them at the Ekka, though?
Would I go again? Possibly, but I would take a little more time to plan my Ekka experience. If you go to http://www.ekka.com.au/, you can buy your tickets ahead of time, have a look at the show bags on offer, and check out a map of the venue. In this way you could get a better idea of what you really want to see, before your feet are in danger of turning into bloody stumps. The Ekka is an easy place to quickly and painlessly blow the family budget, with a number of ATMs (all with long queues) just waiting for the chance to fleece you a little more. Plan your day, take along as much cash as you are willing to spend, and leave your bank cards at home.