Last weekend we went country, leaving behind the comforts of reliable mobile phone reception, good coffee and a social agreement that polar fleece is never acceptable. We were heading for an overnight visit to some good friends who have made a tree change for a simpler life and simpler people. We’d timed it so that we could attend the town’s local ‘Show’ as it is called in Australia, elsewhere know as a county fair, fete or carnival.
We arrived at night and from the comfort of the house several blocks away, we took in the daily fireworks display that signifies the closing of the Showgrounds.
Watching fireworks is a unifying thing for humans, guaranteed to turn our attentions immediately skyward. One of our party mused that “this is what war must be like at night”. I doubted that the explosions of war have the capacity to bring children compelled with excitement out to the front steps of the house, but then I have never watched Iraqi Children's television.
The next day headed into the sports arena that once a year gives over its grounds to cows and people who are enthusiastic about them, instead of country footballers. We purchased for ourselves a family ticket which is one of the only things, besides a vasectomy, having two kids qualifies you for.
These types of events tend to go the same; you’ll have a collection of local schools, sporting clubs and churches running fundraising activities like sausage sizzles, apple fondling and finger-painting bricks. Accompanying that you’ll have a display form the local emergency services, usually the fire brigade or local Army reserve unit, who dispense balloons and stickers rather than burns relief or counter-insurgency.
Whilst all this is going on there will be a bunch of purebred animals being ‘shown’ since it is after all a show! This involves taking weird, small creatures such as rabbits, guinea pigs and Shetland ponies, blowdrying their hair and making them walk in weird formations whilst strange, stern looking people with clipboards judge them. Beside this activity will be the local group of Scouts doing something with ropes that is both impressive and clearly irrelevant.
Finally, a show isn't legitimate without a throng of local farmers shoving a selection of their animals and produce into a shed for local townsfolk to look at like some sort of living museum, while the farmers look on knowingly at their offerings in a manner that says “Sees we toldsya thats all we were doings out there!”
No one can attend one of these events without running into their indigenous inhabitants- The Carny. The Carny is a race of people bred on the arid planes of the Carnival Sideshow. Also known as ‘Show’ or ‘Fair Folk’, these unique specimens of the human race defy cultural and scientific thought. Their diet revolves around the key food groups of fairy floss, slushies and deep-fried-things-on-sticks. Traditional dress has the both male and female donning singlets, with the associated tan lines worn with pride. Males tend to wear a silk tracksuit pant with side buttons that was popular as warm-up attire for NBA basketballers in the late 90’s. Females prefer to don a cut-off jean short, frayed at the hems in a display of fertility. Men tend to traditionally operate the amusement rides to generate an income, whilst women and their children operate the accompanying ticket booths. It is not uncommon for three generations of a family to be found working the one carnival. Many of them never know any other work during their lives whilst others find success in the Car Wash and Pet Photography industries.
The kids enjoyed every aspect of the day from the climbing up the fire brigade truck, to the dodgem cars to patting the sheep and choosing an overpriced showbag. For us adults, it was the majesty of seeing a Carny in full glory and its natural habitat that helped us remember just how unique a day at the show really is...and that diesel is both a fuel source and an after-shave.