We visited the famous Queensland show, the Ekka*, last week. For my overseas friends, the Ekka is a bit like a county fair – where the country brings its best to the city, and the city shares its bright lights and crowds with the rural visitors.
For many years, as I was growing up, I arrived at the gates of the Exhibition Grounds as a wide-eyed bush kid sticking close by my parents’ sides – stunned and amazed at the BIGNESS of it all. The huge shiny cows, the enormous Clydesdale Horses, the sass and aerobatics of the showjumpers, the siren call of the Sample Bag pavilion and the wicked allure and neon flash of Sideshow Alley…
After completing my secondary schooling at a faraway boarding institution, I visited again – this time as a new-to-the-city-based almost-adult. And still, I enjoyed it. I soaked in the fashion parades (Cotton and Wool in separate instalments with long line-ups of fashion-conscious teenagers) and sat self-conscious on the chair-lift gliding across the tops of the pavilions and swirling, milling crowds below. As a uni student, the annual show became a chance to catch up with old friends from my childhood, to share a coffee (or something stronger) with mates, to dance the night away at the Jubilee Hotel with a gazillion other Ekka-goers.
(Well HELLO Jubilee Hotel! Who owns that FILTHY once-white Prado reflected in your windows? I’ll tell you who – a couple who met in your very walls. But that’s another story, for another time.)
As my career took off, so did I. Eventually – maybe a decade later – I returned. I had travelled the world, and explored all kinds of experiences and culture, and this time I came back to the Ekka as an adult. A real one this time.
I came back to ‘my Queensland’, to live in Brissy (Brisbane if we are being formal) and to it’s Big Show. I found I could take or leave the crowds that had once transfixed me – after all, I navigated the sweaty crush of human flesh on a daily basis on the train commute to work in the city. The novelty had well and truly worn off that part of the Ekka. But the gentle aromas of the stock and the relaxed manner of their handlers beckoned me in. The cattle and horse pavilions, so carefully strewn with raked sawdust and decorated wtih leather halters and parading coats and Levi jeans. Warmed with welcoming smiles, and grinning pride in gleaming animals so carefully tended in their rows.
Perhaps it was the reminder of the ‘best of the bush’ from my Ekka visits more than ten years ago, that started me on the path that would inevitably take me (and my family) home? Who knows?
All I know is that the familiar wide-eyed stares of my own children, soaking up every nuance of Ekka magic…
…like sampling a $1 lollipop…
… or sharing a surreal moment with a group of wildflower women…
… is a happy, familiar echo of my own Ekka memories.
And I think they are the luckiest kids in the world to get to sample it too.
I hope you get to share in some Ekka magic – or if you don’t live in Brissy, then you manage to make it to your own Big Show or County Fair soon. If you are going, share your plans. If you are far away, what is your nearest equivalent event?
NB I did not take many photos this trip – my camera is playing up and I spent a whole day CAMERA-free at the Ekka. Unheard of. I will, however, share a couple of little vignettes from the day I DID take my sporadically-working Nikon. Soon. Promise.