Adelaide Royal Show

The Royal Show, for those of you in other countries, is the equivalent of the State Fair. I’m sure it’s the English in us that makes us call it the ROYAL show but nevertheless, I looked forward to the Royal Show every year as a kid. I would save all year for it, gathering any coins I could around our house and doing whatever jobs I could do to make sure I could buy show bags and go on rides. Even now, sitting here, typing this, I can SEE the show in my head. I can remember the show bag hall, the egg board stand where I would get a free poached egg on a muffin, the rows and rows of rides and the dog cage where my brother and I would set up house for the week.

Yes, you read that right.

My mum was an avid dog show person. She bred a variety of dogs to show and towards the end of ‘her as I know her’ (more on that later) she would even be flown around Australia and Asia to judge dog shows.

She loved it.

All of us kids would get dragged along with her and my sister and I were trained in the ways of ‘dog showing’, which I loved until I hated it. The Royal Show was a week long event and we were there EVERYSINGLEDAY. In my memory, we were there from the first moment they opened the gates to exhibitors till the end of the day and us kids had to entertain ourselves for the entire time.

Each dog breeder would be assigned a section in the dog pavilion to set up their dogs and equipment and my brother Anthony and I would always scope out a place to call our own from the very first day…which usually ended up being a dog kennel. If we were lucky enough to get a kennel area for a large dog we could take our quilts and pillows and lay down, fully stretched out, in them. Sometimes we were only left with a small dog kennel and we would create a bed that we could crawl into nonetheless. I loved it when people would look in expecting to see some new, exciting breed of dog and see me…curly hair, tom boy surrounded by the gutse of the 10 show bags I was able to buy that day.

Because my mum was a dog breeder, we would get in early before the main gates opened to the public each day so we could set up and get the dogs needed that day organized. Our job was to help mum bring everything in and once we were finished we would run out into the main show area and look at the rides and stands before anyone else came in. We had badges that would let us into every part of the show and we took full advantage of those badges. Running maniacally through all the pavillions on the first day, looking into every nook and cranny, to get the low down of what we wanted to come back to later in the day, my brother and I scoped out that place and knew it like the back of our hand very quickly. We would already have an idea of which show bags we were definately going to buy and the moment the showbag hall opened up we would buzz through it ooohing and ahhing at all the products that were in each bag. The giddyness of those purchases had us running back to mum for that day’s financial allotment so we could buy them as soon as we could, just incase they sold out within the first 5 minutes.

The Royal Show was also synonymous with the appearance of my ‘aunt’ Flo and ‘uncle’ Peter. They were some of my favorite people, not so much related by blood as they were by experience. They would travel with their caravan from Melbourne to Adelaide every year for the Royal Show and set up outside our house for a couple of weeks. I remember my Aunt Flo being a buxom woman that gave great hugs…and her laugh, I remember her big raucous belly laugh.

Leading up to The Royal Show Aunt Flo would instigate poker games for one & two cent pieces. Us kids would gather what we could find around the house and then sit down ready to win the massive piles of pennies from the adults. I can still remember the drive I had to win those pennies, knowing that it would go into my Royal show fund and would, in my mind, make or break my week. I would dog them to play every moment I could…just one more chance to increase my pot..and more often than not, I would end up with a $5 bill bribe just to go and do something else. I have no doubt that Aunt Flo had no intention of keeping any of her change but the games were always raucous and filled with laughter and competition. Walking away with my t-shirt front overflowing with 1c and 2c pieces always made my Royal Show week that much more exciting.

When the first day arrived we would be up at 4am to prepare dogs, pack the car and make the hour trip down to the city ready to be in line at the gates. The thrill of the first days adventures was better than any coffee I would now need to drink as an adult to get me moving at that time. Loading in, scoping out our area of the pavilion, waiting for mum to load the dogs into their kennels so we could choose our area to set up shop, the buzz in the air from the hundreds of other families doing what we were doing. The community of dog owners checking out each others dogs, the competition.

Once the animals were taken care of, knowing that we still had time till we could get out in the main area of the show, we would set up our spaces. I would bring items from home to make my space my own. My favorite pillow, my quilt, a couple of blankets…whatever I could to make my area unique. Oftentimes throughout the course of the week you would find me, napping in my area curled up next to one of our pups that I had kidnapped to cuddle with me while I recharged for the next show adventure.

Waiting for the main door between the dog pavillion and the show to open was torturous to say the least but we soon worked out how to sneak through the door and out in the world of the show.

The smells of dagwood dogs, fairy floss and machine oil mixed together, the deep voiced man broadcasting ALL day through the speakers across the showground ‘Welcome to the Adelaide Royal Show’.

We were in.

We had arrived.

The adventure had begun….