A Night at the Show, Part One

As a child there were few things more exciting to me than going to the Adelaide Royal Show – the noise, the crowds, the arcade games and rides, the showbags. But the last time I visited, about eleven years ago, I was a parent with two young kids of my own, and the experience was quite different. I found the noise and crowds nerve-wracking, and the expense draining (both metaphorically and literally). It all seemed so superficial and ugly.

When L suggested we go to the Royal Show this year, I instinctively said ‘no’. But then I reconsidered. Maybe it was time to revisit the experience. After all, I no longer had little children to worry about. And the financial factor was no longer so important. Our busy schedules, however, made finding a mutually agreeable time a bit difficult. In the end, it came down to one option – Tuesday night.

When Tuesday came around, my enthusiasm had dissipated, and the weather forecast predicted cloud and rain. But it was too late to pull out, for L had taken showbag orders from friends and relatives. Somewhat reluctantly, I made arrangements to pick L up after work and drive straight to the Wayville Showgrounds.

We didn’t get off to a good start. The traffic situation near the Showgrounds was chaotic. Greenhill Road was at a standstill. To make matters worse, access to the carpark was restricted to traffic heading east. We were heading west. After a short detour down Richmond Road, we finally got to park the car. Always prepared for the worst, I assembled my ‘provisions’ (headache pills, snacks, umbrella, map, camera, spare batteries, tissues, notebook, pen) and we headed for the entrance.

We weren’t in the Showground a minute before the rain came down. Gently at first, then bigger, colder, more threatening drops. We took shelter in the Jubilee Pavilion. Here there was a mystifying collection of promotional stands assembled under the rather non-descript tag of ‘lifestyle’. Furniture displays stood next to stands promoting chocolate sauce; leathergoods next to hair extensions; the Red Cross next to face painting.

As we wandered aimlessly around the displays, where bored salespeople stood yawning, L practiced her ‘thank you but I’m not interested in your product’ face. This involved some grinning and a little nodding. Soon we had both perfected the expression and successfully grinned and nodded our way out of the Pavillion and into a crowded food court, where wet and hungry showgoers munched on hot dogs, fairy floss and chips.

L wanted to check out some of the animal displays, so we trekked around the Showground in search of sheep, dogs, cats and pigs. We got very wet, frustrated and tired, but didn’t see as much as a tropical fish, as all of the animal pavilions had closed for the day. I tried to cheer up L by tempting her with a ride on one of the many bone-shaking, back-shuddering thrill rides.

She decided the only ride she was brave enough to tackle was the Ferris Wheel. That was fine by me, although I was mildly concerned about the rain. It had eased somewhat, however, and it wasn’t that cold or windy. So we merrily clambered aboard the ride, and as we were hoisted into the air above the brilliant lights of the Carnival area, I pulled out my camera and began clicking away madly. It was a few minutes before I noticed that L was huddled low in the seat, her arms over her face. That was when it really decided to rain.

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