What the hell is an EKKA? Only the biggest, noisiest, country fair in the city! I’m sitting writing this, the last of my posts from Australia, waiting for a midnight flight to Shanghai, looking at these photos of sunshine, blue sky and the bright, bright colours of Australia. I have mixed feelings about going back to the heavy polluted skies of China, but here I go. It’s been a wonderful long holiday, long enough to see family and friends not just once but many times, making it all the more bittersweet to leave.
According to the younger members of my family the highlight of our trip was, without a doubt, People’s Day at the Ekka. The Brisbane Exhibition began life as an agricultural show, a small country fair for the best producers in the state to compete and show the prowess of their bulls, dairy cows, and chickens. Along the way it’s become a crazy bright neon lights novelty show with fairground rides, sideshow alley, fireworks, stunt cars and two hundred ways to part with your cash!
Only in Australia would the government consider an agricultural fair so important they declare a public holiday for everyone, but that’s exactly what happens on the second Wednesday in August each year for People’s Day, a kind of Ekka endurance test of absolutely Chinese proportions. If you love Brisbane, if you love your fellow Brisbane-ites, and the more of them the better, then you’ll love People’s Day. Thousands of people cram the gates from early morning to night, as we all jostle each other from the wood-chop to the sheep dog trials, to sideshow alley, and we all queue impatiently for strawberry icecreams, dagwood dogs, toffee apples, fairy floss, hot chips and coffee. We love each other slightly less by the end of the day…..
For kids, the most exciting part of their Ekka experience is the Showbag Pavilion, a shrine to the cheap, tacky, sweet and sticky. Showbags were originally small bags of free merchandise samples, given away to punters. Now you have to pay for them, and produce samples have given way to confectionary and cheap plastic toys, but kids love it, and for five dollars they can get enough gum, chocolate and brightly coloured stuff to keep them enaptured for hours. We had planned our showbag purchases from the online Ekka Guide back in Shanghai, I mean, it was that seriously anticipated.
After the melee in the Showbag Pavilion it’s time to get back out into the neon craziness of Sideshow Alley and drop some serious cash on bumper cars, the ferris wheel, and twenty vertiginous rides like The Hangover, The Claw, Disco Cars, and The Crazy Coaster. Don’t eat first.
Then before you know it, night has fallen and it’s nearly time to go home. They’re calling my flight now…..see you back in Shanghai!