Show time

We took the strangelings, and assorted relations who are staying with us, to the Royal Adelaide Show on Saturday. It was fascinating, and nightmarish, and wonderful.

The fascinating – craft and baking competitions. There were quilts and knitting (hand and machine) and crocheting and painting-on-porcelain and sewing embroidery and cross-stitch and tatting and beading and you-name-it-and-it-was-there. Hours and hours of lovingly-done craft, all on display. The knitting wasn’t as glorious as the wonderful pieces M-H, the Witty Knitter, saw at the Sydney Easter Show (I especially love this garment), but we were delighted to see our neighbour’s quilt there (unplaced this year, but she won a prize for the embroidery on it last year).

bakingThe craft work I can understand. The baking – not so much. If it was just a matter of iced cakes, it wouldn’t puzzle me. I can understand the skill that is required, and the fun involved in decorating cakes. But there were stands full of chocolate cakes and sponge cakes and trays of muffins and scones and shortbread and Anzac biscuits, and yes, cup cakes. All baked at home, and all entered in the Show’s baking competitions. It seems that I too, could bake a batch of biccies, and compete to be honoured as the best biscuit maker. In some ways I can’t understand why anyone would want to do it – baking is for family and friends and for eating, but in others, why not honour the skill which people have developed over many years of cooking, at home. Fabulous cooking is not just the preserve of professionals. And yes, speaking of preserves, there were jars of jams and jellies and marmalades and pickles.

As my sister-in-law said, there’s a story to be told there, a documentary to be made about the people who enter the baking and preserving and cake decorating and craft competitions, their plans and their hopes and the pleasure (or not) they get from engaging in their work.

The wonderful – all the farm animals. My city girls were able to pat lambs and hold chickens, and get up close to cows and horses, and peer into a big tub of yabbies. The Farmyard Nursery was best, with ducks and ducklings, calves, baby emus (very cute!), and sheep and lambs. There seemed to be more sheep than lambs in the pen, and some of the sheep were looking very gravid; perhaps the organisers are hoping for some arrivals during the show, to the amazement of children, and consternation of (some) parents.

Then there were all the animals entered in competitions, for the best-bred alpacas and sheep and rams and bulls and dairy cows and so on. The chookies were best, I thought. Some were scrawny…


…some looked as though they were auditioning for a part in Green Eggs and Ham


… and some were Tribbles.


The nightmarish – the rides and the showbags. The rides were the usual cacophony of jolting and flashing and blaring mayhem, from which the adults emerged with headaches, but we couldn’t be so curmudgeonly as to take our children to the show and not allow them to ride on something. So they got to choose one ride each, and all three of them could go on it, if they wanted. So we spent ridiculous amounts of money buying tickets for the ferris wheel (the younger Miss Eight’s choice) and the roller coaster (Miss Ten’s choice). Enormous fun, ‘though the elder Miss Eight was stunned into (momentary) silence by the roller coaster experience. Her choice was the simplest of all, and I have never seen her look so delighted – a pony ride.

The show bags hall was worst of all. Show bags must have started as a way for businesses to encourage people to try some of their wares – pay a small amount, and get samples of delicious food to eat, or small gadgets, or little toys, or whatever. But they have degenerated into commercial madness; big companies package up cheap products into plastic bags and hawk them at shows. You can buy scads of chocolate, or sweets, or plastic jewellery, or cheap make-up, or out-of-date magazines, all at “discount” prices. The hall is packed with bargain hunters, and yet more flashing lights and glaring colours. But the strangelings coveted various bags (one each!) so in we went.

And emerged half an hour later, shattered. We went home, and had several very large glasses of wine.


9 comments on “Show time

  1. M-H says:

    I also find the showbag fervour incomprehensible. I have no memory of this kind of thing at the Wellington Show in my youth. But there is certainoy a doco to be made. The smh did canvass the wild scenes caused by a technical dispute among the cake decorators this year, and we saw one woman sobbing near the cake decorating cabinet on the evening we went to preview the knitting.

  2. Mindy says:

    I avoid the larger shows because it costs so much just to get in, then the food, the showbags just about everything is so bloody expensive. We always go to the local show though because we can buy a yearly membership to the show society which means “free entry” to the show so we can go both days and actually save about $30. Which we quickly spend on rides of course. Although I can’t bring myself to buy $5 worth of crap in a $20 show bag.

    The kids love the petting zoo (even at a country show) and watching the shearing, and looking at all the chooks and ducks. They also have a dog show which is great because you get to see all sorts of breeds trotting around the square. One year when he was three my son offended a woman by insisting that her miniature whippet (or something like that) was a rabbit because it had pointy ears. It was a lovely little dog though. But we decided against getting one when we discovered they were about $1000 for pet quality.

    I particularly liked the fact that this year at the Yass show a number of prizes in the preserves and jams sections were won by a man. I imagined there were quite a few ruffled feathers about that!

    The flower competition is also hotly contested. I always think “I must try and grow some of those, they are lovely” but I never do.

  3. stef says:

    I love baking but I think the film Best in Show would have similarities to anyone doing a bake-off type doco

  4. […] you see the one about . . . Show Time at In A Strange Land – old crafts and new junk at the Adelaide […]

  5. rayinnz says:

    My aunts were very much into show baking, there are quite strict rules which it pays to know, instant expulsion for whipped cream on the chocolate cake sort of thing
    There used to be a round of A&P shows with the local one being last, which gave rise to the catty statement “Yes, she won first prize but have you tasted it , it is stale!”
    There is still an Iris Harvey Cup in Oamaru for the most points etc
    We also had an associated dog show which gave us much amusement checking the owners who looked like their dogs…..they did or at least some did.

  6. donnasoowho says:

    I have to say I don’t get the show bag thing at all (some of the ones at the Melbourne show cost $20!!). Glad they didn’t used to have those in NZ. Ray and I found the Melbourne show so sanitised (although I don’t think I was surprised) with the single ‘cow on display’ in a white shed in a roped off area so you can’t touch. There was also a weirdy ‘NZ versus Australia’ wood chopping contest (but it wasn’t clear to me whether the NZ contingent were ‘wood choppers from NZ’ or ‘NZers who live in Australia and went in the wood chopping competition’). There was very strange half hearted version of the haka at the end (after NZ was thrashed) by a local Maori Culture group.

  7. tor says:

    I haven’t been to the Adelaide Show in years (I grew up in Adel but live in Syd now). One of my fave parts was the hall with all the free samples of delicious produce. Do they still have that “Bazza the Bunyip” trail?

    Ah, the memories. The show is one of those things that can be pretty tacky and stressful for adults but is so worth it for the kids. Some of my happiest childhood memories are of ye olde Adelaide showground.

  8. Ashleigh says:

    Gorsh. Freaky chooks. I’ve just watched the show on the ABC about dog breeding. Fairly turns me up – and I’m sorry – but freaky chooks make me feel much the same way. Not something to celebrate 😦

  9. Helen says:

    Donnasoowho – The “show bags” started as “sample bags”, as Tor says, they were in a kind of produce hall – dairy, groceries, whatevs – and instead of chocolate and gewgaws from China they had little miniature bottles of tomato sauce, packets of chips, wee cheeses and other liliputian things. It was really cool and I miss them greatly. Thanks for the memories Tor!

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