It’s Exhibition week in Brisbane - once again! The chilly westerly winds have begun to blow and we are experiencing the last blast of winter before summer arrives with a vengeance.
Wednesday was a public holiday – ‘EKKA day’ as all Queenslanders refer to it - created specifically to allow families to have time off work and school to attend the yearly Exhibition at the Brisbane Showgrounds.
Many Queensland families save all year to be able to go to the EKKA in August, only to spend exorbitant amounts of cash on entry fees, junk food, Pluto pups, strawberry sundaes, funfair rides, balloons, candy floss, and of course - showbags!
We managed to avoid the yearly pilgrimage to the EKKA for quite some years while the children were very young until the year they were old enough to learn about showbags from their school friends.
We found them one day huddled over the Courier Mail EKKA pullout, excitedly looking through the hundreds of showbags listed and compiling a list of the ones they could not live without.
We could no longer pretend that the EKKA did not exist ... We had no choice but to make the trip along with our three excited little girls!
After that first harrowing experience as a young family trying to keep track of three highly spirited children while working our way through the jostling crowds from the baby animal petting zoo, the dog shows and the horse jumping events, to the Showbag Pavilion and the fireworks, and at the same time attempting to distract the girls while we tried unsuccessfully to avoid Sideshow Alley, we vowed NEVER AGAIN!
However, the next year when the showbag pullout once again circulated around the classrooms and we found ourselves back at the EKKA, we agreed that after that year we would go only every two years, a solution that seemed to be much more tolerable.
Somehow, the girls still managed to go each year, convincing their grandparents, their older brother and Uncle and Aunt to take turns escorting them!
This week, for the first time in many years I caved in to pressure from two of my now teenage daughters to join them for a day at the EKKA.
We decided to go on Monday, a so-called off peak day when everyone was meant to be at work or school. As we disembarked from the train and entered through the gates we could see that the showgrounds were saturated with humanity, which increased steadily throughout the day and by the time we got to the Showbag Pavilion there was an unprecedented 30 minute wait to get into the building.
I could not believe that my 19 and 16-year-old daughters were still that interested in showbags that they were prepared to wait for all that time in the sun!
It turned out to be a great day with the girls. The weather was magnificent with a perfect blue winter’s sky and a warm breeze.
We spent a long time watching the show jumping events in the main arena, followed by glasses of divine fresh homemade lemonade and the best Greek baklava I have ever tasted!
We dined on wood-fired pizza at lunch in a quaint little Italian outdoor café that played tinny arias over megaphones and had Venetian hanging lantern replicas in plastic - complete with price tags left on - pegged to the corners of the striped umbrellas.
We visited the animal nursery - more for nostalgic reasons and because I insisted – but this time the girls were not at all keen to get their hands dirty by feeding or petting the animals. A far cry from all those times when they were little and we had so much trouble pulling them away from the animals!
I was entranced by the patience and intelligence in the eyes of the young Llamas, sitting completely still like statues in their cages, only their eyes moving slowly as hundreds of children shrieked around them.
I spent ages wondering through the colour and fun of Sideshow Alley with my camera while the girls went on rides and spent far too many dollars trying to win one of the oversized stuffed toys by throwing darts at balloons or balls into hoops or fishing with magnets … all to no avail.
The best they could come up with for all that exertion was a miniature bright red stripey tiger and a tiny green gecko!
Will I be going back again next year? In truth I think I could probably survive many, many more years without feeling the need to visit the EKKA again!