The Country Show

I was raised in a rural area, and the local agricultural show was a highlight of the year’s social calendar. My love of a country show started in infancy. Here I am, aged about 18 months, all dressed up at the Innisfail Show.

The show is an event that brings the community together. It’s a chance to showcase skills, talent, and creativity. We see it in the woodchop and equestrian events, livestock showing, dance and band performances, cooking, spinning and weaving, photography, quilt making and more.

My family moved to Brisbane when I was 14. The tradition of going to the show was replaced with an annual trek to the Ekka. The focus shifted to rides and sideshow alley, though I remember still loving to visit the pavilions.

I moved away from Brisbane when I started work, and my show-going tradition ceased. That was until we moved to the fringe of town. Then I discovered the Mudgeeraba Show. The charm of the country show from my childhood was recaptured in this local event, which has just celebrated its 89th year.

When we started going to the Mudgeeraba Show 7 years ago, I once again experienced the pleasure of wandering through the pavilion admiring the flowers, fruit and vege displays, craft, and cooking. The latter brought back memories of my mother cooking for the show when we were on the farm. I recall her bringing home many prize cards. I decided to give it a go the following year. So I cooked up some cakes, biscuits, and scones. As an afterthought, I threw in some coconut ice in which I had seriously overdone the pink food colouring! And it won!

Encouraged by some early successes, I’ve entered exhibits every year since. These have included things like sunken and lopsided cakes, and some pretty average-looking scones. But as a friend commented, if everyone only enters perfect-looking exhibits, there wouldn’t be much in the pavilion! So whatever it looks like, in it goes, because it will contribute in some small way to the success of the show.

As a child there were 2 things I looked forward to most at show time each year. One was the excitement of getting a new outfit to wear. The other was the anticipation of picking out a ‘doll on a stick’. With large painted-on eyes and lashes, these little plastic dolls were dressed in layers of pretty tulle trimmed with sequins and glitter. I remember there being rows and rows to choose from, and recall the thrill of making a selection and carrying the doll around for the day. They seemed to capture the colour and magic of a country show, and served as a beautiful memento of the occasion.

The first time we went to the Mudgeeraba Show I was so delighted to see a kewpie doll at a stall selling handmade items. I made a grab for it ahead of a young girl who was eyeing it off. When she saw the “don’t even think about it” look in my eye she wisely backed off…..

As I carried it around that day, a couple of women about my age stopped to ask where I’d got it, and were disappointed to be told it was the last one. Seems it brought back some fond memories for them as well. I’ve never seen them since though every year I hopefully keep an eye out. Mine sits on my desk as a reminder of country shows past and present.

So did I enter some cooking and other exhibits this year? I sure did! Here’s a follow-up post on my adventures in show cooking in 2017.

Do you have a country show that you wouldn’t miss?


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  • Beverley Waddell says:

    Your post brought back some wonderful memories Jo…..I absolutely loved going to the Ekka with my Mum when I was a child. The smells, the sights especially the ring events, the noise and all the interesting exhibits!! Still love going when I get the chance. Well done with your success x

  • I have such fond memories of country shows. Absolutely loved the animals (even the smells), the cakes and watching shows such as shearing and wood chopping. I remember they had such a buzz about them. They were happy, festive and positive. So much to see. I remember those little windmills on sticks and always carrying one around.
    Well done too on your cooking entries.

    • Jo says:

      I love the woodchop too Kylie. Those little windmills on sticks are everywhere, unlike the much prettier dolls on a stick.

  • Jo says:

    As a kid in Merriwa & Bombala (country NSW) the annual show was a highlight. I remember spending hours baking & sewing entries. Mum used to exhibit paintings & vegetables too. I was reminded of it recently at Maleny Show – here on the Sunshine Coast. The fun & community spirit of the local ag show lives on. Thankfully. #TeamLovinLife

    • Jo says:

      Yes I’m so thankful for it too Jo. It’s not all about being slick and impressive like big city events. Ok, so I’ll put you on the spot – what will you exhibit next Maleny Show??!

  • Vanessa says:

    My local area does still have a tiny show – it starts tomorrow 🙂 I call it many derogatory names but kind of with love – it’s so awful I can’t not go. It’s also not really touched by shiny city wide marketing like many of our other local festivals have sadly turned into so I really do appreciate it as local event.

    • Jo says:

      Hahaha, your comment gave me a laugh Vanessa! It’s great they keep it going. Our local show now has a junior committee to encourage younger people to get involved and keep the show ‘relevant’. This must be such a challenge for very small events like the one you describe. Good on you for continuing to support it, even if it makes you cringe a bit!

  • Deborah says:

    Oh wow, I remember the kewpie dolls! I have very solid memories of being a kid and having measles and missing the local (Maryborough) show once but still getting a showbag and kewpie doll on a stick!

    I haven’t been to a show in decades but when I was little they were the highlight of my year.I also have pictures of my grandparents at the show in the early 1940s and they’re all dressed up – shirt, tie, hats, heels and so forth. So weird!

    • Jo says:

      Deborah I’ve also got a picture of my Dad and uncle in 1942, in suits and ties at the Innisfail Show. The photo was taken by the local paper and they both look so dapper.

  • I always think of ‘Summer of the Seventeenth Doll’ when I see those dolls on sticks.

    SSG xxx

  • Johanna says:

    Ahh, you’ve brought back many happy memories of county shows in England. We used to do a lot of show jumping so I was privileged to attend quite a few, including The Bath and West agricultural show which was always such big excitement and for us kids always so HUGE that we got lost for hours in the avenues of stalls between jumping events. In WA I’ve enjoyed The Brunswick show, and you’ve actually inspired me to perhaps bake or make something for the next one.

    • Jo says:

      Oh do it Jo! Especially now that you have moved to a country area. Can’t wait to see a post about your adventures in show cooking!

  • Anne says:

    I grew up in a small country town and the show was the highlight of the year! Your post brings back some memories!

  • Love this post as I too loved the country shows! As a little girl I was taken by my aunty to the Dapto Show and it was dress up time with gloves and good clothes!! Later as I grew up I really enjoyed the traditional Royal Easter Show before they moved it from the old showgrounds in the middle of Sydney to Olympic Park. We’ve moved to the Central Coast and I visited a country show at Yarramalong last year and it even had a woodchopping event! Denyse

    • Jo says:

      Haven’t things changed Denyse?! Getting dressed up was an important part of it as a child, now it’s jeans and comfy shoes. The skill of woodchopping is being passed on through the generations. We watched the Jack & Jill event this year, and the competitors included mother-son and father-daughter combinations. It’s so good to keep it alive.

  • writeofthemiddle says:

    This brings back some lovely memories Jo! I was born and bred in Brisbane so mostly the show is the Ekka for me and I too loved getting the doll on the stick. Also loved the traditional things like fairy floss (don’t like it now), sample bags, seeing the baby animals etc. However, I had a period of 3 years during primary school where I lived in the country when Dad was transferred with work. We had 1 year living in Warwick and 2 years living in Mitchell (both Queensland). So I experienced country shows and rodeo’s as a child and I did love them!! #TeamLovinLife

  • Kathy Marris says:

    Kewpie dolls – I remember them well. Weren’t they the best thing about going to the Show? Also showbags chocablock full of goodies (unlike the pathetic ones these days) and sticky and sickly sweet fairy floss. I haven’t been to one in years. Good luck with the exhibits! 🙂 #TeamLovinLife

    • Jo says:

      You must go again some time Kathy. I did try fairy floss again a few years ago, and wondered how I ever could have eaten it as a child!

  • I, and the kids, only begun entering stuff in our local show a few years ago. Haven’t looked back since. I love the community feel of it all and I think it is wonderful to get the kids involved too.

    • Jo says:

      Oh good on you Alicia! I’m sure the kids can’t wait to get there, see their exhibits on display, and look for those ribbons and cards!

  • Those cupie dolls on sticks are iconic.
    I grew up in Goulburn and competed in the horse events annually at the Agricultural Show. Such a highlight.
    I love heading to the Canberra Show now and going to the exhibitions and checking out the craft, food and animal components. Seeing those ribbons won by so many clever people.

  • Melanie says:

    It’s wonderful to hear that so many shows are still alive and that people are enjoying the simple things in life like sharing their sewing and baking, watching people in big hats catching up with friends, and children, sticky with fairy floss or toffee apple, running around madly. I remember very proudly my first show in Australia and pointing out to my parents my drawing amongst the school exhibits. Later, my first independent outing was to the Perth Royal show where it was fun just to go on the rides with friends instead of looking at boring farm machinery with mum and dad who were pretending to know something about it!

    • Jo says:

      It’s been terrific Melanie to read the comments on this post and to hear others’ memories of going to the show both in the city and country. Yes it’s great that even in very small towns the show is still alive.

  • I used to love the Redlands Show when the kids were small. But several years ago it amalgamated with the Strawberry Festival, to become the Redlands Spring Festival – and it just isn’t the same. Pretty sure they don’t have the competitions like these, and I always used to love checking out the entries even if I was never brave enough to try myself!

    • Jo says:

      I’m glad that there is still some land down there on which to grow strawberries Janet! They should have a ‘biggest strawberry’ competition!

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