While country shows might be on the decline in parts of rural Australia, the Goulburn Show over the weekend appeared to buck that trend.
The traditional country show has been a fixture of rural life for more than 100 years. Elwin Bell who is part of the ‘carnival’ show business family, Bells Amusements, recalls a family story from his grandfather Roy Bell of the travelling Roy Bell Boxing Stadium fame when most of the roads in Australia weren’t bitumen.
“It used to take them two weeks to travel between Geelong and Melbourne,” he said.
With Bells Amusements, he travels the length and breadth of Australia for the entire year, every year. There is School of the Air for the children and generations of families still with the company and who wouldn’t trade the travelling show business life for the typical ‘nine to five’ job.
Most of all, 50-year-old Elwin, born and raised on the road, knows rural shows.
“People forget about what the show is really about. It’s a community event that started when there were no telephones or televisions – the local show was the entertainment. You got to see the best eggs, the best sheep…it allowed farmers to advertise their products and it was an opportunity for the community to get together and mingle, often with people they hadn’t seen since the last show.”
Change has been the underlying condition as shows adapt or fall away, sometimes due to whether or not the local farmers are battling drought.
The Goulburn Show over the weekend attracted big crowds and big community spirit. It reflected the ‘community’ nature of an event where families enjoyed the rides that Bells Amusements offered, the sights and sounds of the pavilion where everything from wool to roses, pumpkin scones and gigantic zucchinis were displayed. There were live animals, yard dog demonstrations and horse competitions. Even dogs were jumping into swimming pools – the winning dog being the one who jumped the furthest.
Small homes, machinery and not-for-profit stands connected with potential consumers and patrons. Food stalls and the local service clubs selling their barbecue steak and sausage ‘sangas’ were run off their feet on Saturday. The main thoroughfare outside the showground, Braidwood Road, was packed either side with parked cars and the internal carparks were just as full on the show’s second day.
Inside the pavilion, the Country Women’s Association served Devonshire Teas while the Goulburn Regional Ukulele Band (GRUB) strummed its way through well-known tunes. As well as displays, the Goulburn Show was a micro-view into the many community groups active in the region.
Outside, there was something for everyone including a stunt motorcycle and mountain bike show sponsored by local business Divalls Earthmoving and Bulk Storage, a strong supporter of community events.
Goulburn Show Society President Jackie Waugh believes the success of the show comes down to the volunteers involved.
“As soon as one show finishes, we begin working on next year’s show.”
Jackie is in step with Elwin on the reasons why rural shows will survive into the future.
“Goulburn Show is a good all-round community event. I got involved originally because I showed needlework and photography and then took a place on the committee…that was about 15 years ago,” she said.
“It’s the only place where the general public can display what they are producing and the show is a real social event. We have ladies here who might not see each other from year to year and then there are the farmers who display their wool and cattle, and the goal is to get their reputation for quality out there.
“People also like the animals and the rides and the various entertainments we have here. We’ve got martial arts displays, singers…the show is a reflection of who we are and a ‘taster’ of our community.”
“The Goulburn Show is too big an event for us not to have. We are committed to seeing it continue.”
As for Elwin, sideshow alley is a place for fun. Even though Bells Amusements, which is based in Queanbeyan, delivers some of the most thrilling rides to the major shows in the capital cities including the Royal Easter Show in Sydney, the smaller rides have provided the best memories for him.
“My favourite ride is the Cha Cha which my father bought in 1969. I’ve seen how many smiles on people’s faces that ride gives over the years.”
You can find out more about the Goulburn Show Society here.