Last week a work project took me down to the local regional Show. Having never been to a Show since leaving the big city a few years back, I was keen to see how this one stacked up.
My expectations of it being something that I could take the kids too were raised by the endorsement that this was a Royal Show. How the local Agricultural Society obtains endorsement from Her Majesty is a mystery to me. I don't think you'd find her riding the Spinatron or taste-testing dagwood dogs to ensure the right ratio of entrails to batter. It turns out it wasn't something to take the kids along to - unless I wanted to punish them.
What is it about a Show that promises so much and yet delivers so little? This one seemed even worse than most. A wise man once explained to me that there are three distinct elements to any Show, regardless of location.
The first element is scent. You know how they say you smell a body before you see it? It's the same with a Show. It's a mixture of diesel, deep fried battered meats and desperation trying to have fun.
The second element is visual and aural - the fireworks. The explosion of a middle-aged pyrotechnician's frustration across they night sky for other people's amusement.
The third element is something undefinable. The kings of any Show are the Carnies. Carnival folk are a wandering tribe. These grease gypsies terrorize communities, native animals and children wherever they go. They have hitched their cultural campervans to a way of life rarely understood by anyone who has experienced freely running water or electricity. Their craft is the sideshow, their habitat the carnival and the night their playground
The males of Carnie tribes are most visible. You'll find them swinging from dodgem car to dodgem car, clambering around the Haunted House getting mistaken for a part of the ride or enjoying a tobacco break while harassing the young local girls with their lazy eyes. The females tend to stay nearby the lucky ticket stand or the air rifle duck shoot, chewing on deep fried foods and shepherding herds of stuffed animals. The youth must undergo their fairground initiation, overseeing the inflatable bouncy thingy and the safety of small children.
The thought of exposing my impressionable children to these types at such a young age was too much. I settled on giving them a taste of the Show magic from the safety of the other side of the fence.
We pulled the car up outside the Showgrounds just as dusk had finished. I was bringing my oldest along to experience the closing night fireworks.
"This is when they come out," I quietly reminded myself. Scanning the shrubs and trees, it seemed safe. The chance of a Carnie straying this far from camp without the promise of a free item of promotional clothing was slim.
There was just the slightest hint of diesel and fried food in the air.
"At least the kids will get to experience two of the three show elements," I told myself again whilst making a mental note to have more conversations with actual adults.
"Great idea," I agreed.
We waited and waited until soon the fireworks began to crack open across the sky, raining down their sparky droplets. I sat there and watched with my little dude beside me, content in knowing that he had experienced two-thirds of the key Show elements without having to experience those-of-tiny-cabbage-hands.
There is a strange unifying element to fireworks that causes all humans within a near radius to be still and observe skyward. To me, fireworks are the pizza of the entertainment world- it doesn't seem to matter how many times you've experienced them, they are always welcome. Kind of like the opposite of a Carnie on your dodgem car.