Agricultural Shows/Fairs: Times Past


© irene waters 2017

Thanks to D. Avery for this prompt.  When she suggested it we had just had our public holiday for our local show.  I said at the time that we should stop having a public holiday when the show was on because these days, so few people go. It is important to the country folk but to the townies it no longer has a lot of significance. Roger disagreed. Although not an Aussie by birth he could still see the importance of showcasing all things agricultural – after all Australia’s wealth was founded on a sheep’s back.

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© irene waters 2017

It made me wonder – do all geographical locations have agricultural shows, country fairs that feature produce from the country? If so, are they similar or different. Are they all similar or different? For example something that happens in England that has never happened here (in my time anyway) is the winning of goldfish. I’d love it if someone could fill us in on that occurrence which I know happened in the UK.

Please join in giving your location at the time of your memory and  your generation. An explanation of the generations and the purpose of the prompts along with conditions for joining in can be seen at the Times Past Page. Join in either in the comments or by creating your own post and linking. Looking forward to your memories.

Baby Boomer    Rural Australia

I grew up in a small country town of 800 people and the show was one of the main social events of the year. Everyone in the town went. There was a flurry of activity for a few months (probably longer) as people prepared their prize winning recipes, knitted their best stitches and made lacework and embroidery that was intricate and perfect.

On the day of the show we would dress in our best clothes and try and get there as early as possible. There were row after row of pavillions each housing a different display. One of the most exciting for us kids was the show bag pavillion. In those days showbags were worth getting but we were only allowed one each so the decision was a tough one.

All the other pavillions held displays and items that had been judged. My favourite were the chickens and the displays of fruit and vegetables. The needlework and craft displays didn’t interest me much as a child although the cake decorating was something to be seen.

Apart from the pavillions there were events such as the wood chopping which were normally held away from the main ring which was kept for the Grand Parade, horse events and other animal events. One year we had a motor cycle display. We looked at all these places before we were taken down side show alley. In those days side show alley was made up of oddities such as the bearded lady and siamese twins, as well as testing your skill shooting ducks, bowling coconuts and hitting a hammer to make the chair drop the person sitting in it in the water. There was also the obligatory ferris wheel and some other more frightening rides that children these days would turn their noses up at.

My Mum was horrified that we thought our show was something special. As far as she was concerned it was a hick event. She determined that we would see the Royal Easter Show to know what a real show was all about. In 1967, she drove us to Sydney. My Dad couldn’t come because as a minister Easter was a time he had to be on hand for services.

Mum hated every minute of it but she felt she had done her parental duty. To us kids it was much the same as our show at home only grand. By that I mean it was huge. It was so big it was impossible to visit all the pavillions or see many of the events. It has always given me a smile that Mum did this because in 1968 we moved to Sydney and Dad took us to every show until I left school. I loved going with him as he loved it as much as I did. Mum didn’t attend another show until we moved here to Noosa and we went to the show at Pomona.  She is sitting in front of her prize winning entry (the red embroidery with red ribbon).


© irene waters 2017


© irene waters 2017

Horse events at Pomona.


© irene waters 2017

The Grand parade at Pomona. Sadly Pomona show is dying. There were so few people there.


© irene waters 2017

A different story in Gloucester though. My godson (on the horse at the top) comes from a farm and horses are an important part of life. Winning events at these country shows is essential to gain the points to qualify to compete at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney.

Did you go to shows as a child or in later life?  I’m looking forward to reading  you memories…….

From the minute D. suggested this as a topic I have not been able to get the song Meet me in St Louis out of my head. It made a huge impact on me as it was probably one of the first films I watched. I’ve included the sound track.


About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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7 Responses to Agricultural Shows/Fairs: Times Past

  1. D. here, Gen x. I am so sorry about that song.
    I think one thing we will sadly hear about is the die-back of many of the fairs. Fewer participants, fewer entries. Too many are more carnival like than agricultural fair, though the traditions persist. There are still many big ones around New England. As a child we didn’t make the drive and attend these extravaganzas, and as an adult my school schedule is at odds to take in many of these events.
    As a kid in Vermont there were more local parades and events that had the elements of a county fair. There would be carnival rides and such at community grounds after the Memorial Day parade, but what made it special were the pony and horse pull competitions. In the seventies in this area people still used real horse power to skid logs out of the woods or to transport sap and hay on the farms. The competitions at the fair were a time to show off the everyday competence and skills of a team.
    And there was a greased pig event for the kids, a very muddy raucous affair where the pig always won.
    I was in 4-H, so our club was pretty small and rinky-dink, we lived in the woods, not farm country, but we did travel to some fairs to see other 4-H kids compete, sleeping in the stalls with their animals, grooming them for show. My prized if not prize hen had her day in the limelight when our club had a float in a local Fourth of July Parade. These events are usually followed with a huge chicken barbecue, an auction or flea market, and games and activities for the kids. I have always liked these smaller community based events more than the big fairs, but they too are dying out, with fewer small towns putting on their own.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A beautiful celebration of times gone by! I did go to the country fair when I was young. We didn’t participate, except to go, wander among the exhibits, go on some of the rides, and eat cotton candy. It was an exciting event! I left that country long ago, and haven’t thought about the fair for decades, but you brought it all back!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You in turn have brought back memories of what you call cotton candy and we call fairy floss. The show was the only time we ever saw this confection and we loved it. We’d end up with noses of pink and dark red crystals around our mouths where the floss had come in contact with moisture. I think I’d hate it now as it must have been pure sugar. Thanks for sharing your memories from the Silent Generation Diane.


  3. Pingback: Times Past: The Show | Musings of a Retiring Person

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