Some of my earliest childhood memories involve being woken in the wee hours of the morning, and bundled into the car for a Very Long Drive to the city.
Despite the distance, we made regular trips to Brisbane, where Mum had grown up and lived before marrying my Dad and moving to the country.
The most anticipated trip was always the yearly visit to the Ekka.
We’d save our pocket money for weeks, and scour The Courier Mail for showbag guides and side show alley stories.
Mum and Dad always gave us enough money for two showbags and two rides each, and we were happy with that.
The showbags back then were much more generous than today – I remember paying $1 for a Kellogg’s bag that contained multiple dinky mini-boxes of cereal that my kids love now. (Yes, I am that old.)
Coming from the country, our day began at about 4 am when we started our drive. In Brisbane, we usually parked in some bloke’s front yard for a few dollars, and then trekked in through the gates to the cattle area.
Why cattle? Well, my Uncle Clarrie ran one of Australia’s best AIS (Australian Illawarra Shorthorn) studs at the time, Cedar Valley, and regularly won championships with his dairy cows.
He and his family – and later, one of my animal-loving brothers – would camp at the Ekka for the duration of the show, sleeping in a loft above the cattle so they could take care of the animals’ every needs.
It was a nice base, one where there were friendly faces, a small room with a few chairs and a cuppa always on offer, and a place to store our esky. The latter was always filled with home-made sandwiches, biscuits, fruit and drinks to save money.
Not that we went without all show treats. We always got a Dagwood Dog – the taste still brings me back to my childhood – and a strawberry sundae. The dogs were always a hit, but the sundaes sometimes missed. Sometimes you’d get one with sour strawberries in it, and all the magic would disappear.
My favourite activity was always the chairlift, though I was too scared to go on the Ferris Wheel. And yes, my brothers did call me a sook!
My parents were big on the freebies at the show, and we’d taste everything on offer, and watch hours of entertainment. And oh, how I loved the pineapple boats, which seemed so exotic back then!
We’d stay until after the fireworks, and then Dad would drive the four or five hours home.
I always loved opening my showbags the next day and reliving the magic, and I’d make the contents last for ages.
As a grown-up, I have mixed feelings about the Ekka. I still love the atmosphere and the idea of it. The country meeting the city, the animals, sideshow alley, showbags, the lot. (And these days, there are the firemen selling calendars too …)
But despite the free events, I still find it expensive to take a family, and often weigh up if we’d be better off having a weekend away or a day at a theme park, where rides are included, than a day at the EKKA.
But we’ve never been as a single parent family, and the kids are really eager to go. (Of course they are, but can you blame them?)
I’d love them to experience the magic of the EKKA and to see it again through their eyes. Money for treats will be tight, but then Mum and Dad never had a lot to spare either, and we always had a good time.
Besides, it’s the perfect way to con them into doing extra chores around the house for extra pocket money!
Will you go to the Ekka this year?
You could go for free if you enter MIA’s latest competition!
Courtesy of The RNA (The Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland), I have a family pass (two adults, two children), to give away.
To enter, simply leave a comment below sharing your favourite Ekka memory.
You’ll get an extra entry if you like my Maid In Australia facebook page, or if you’re already a liker, commenting on my page.
Good luck. I can almost taste the Dagwood Dogs!
The competition has now ended, and Kimmie is the lucky winner. Kimmie enjoy popping your Ekka cherry thanks to the RNA and MIA. Contact me so I can get your family pass to you as soon as possible!