1 March 2023

Royal Canberra Show wraps up as biggest ever, thanks to robots and horse actors

| James Coleman
Start the conversation
Royal Canberra Show

These little piggies are too cute to make bacon jokes. Photo: Royal Canberra Show.

The Royal Canberra Show has just enjoyed its biggest year yet.

Between 24 and 26 February, more than 92,000 people flooded through the gates at Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) to watch dirt-biking, ‘tent-pegging’, lawn-mowing and wood-sawing showdowns, and no shortage of horse, cattle, dog and pig competitions.

This compares to last year when just over 40,000 people attended.

CEO Geoff Cannock says the various farm sales and competitions over the three days were the show’s bread and butter.

“Up to 3500 people are involved in the horse competitions each day, and only six of the 1200 horses involved came from here in the ACT.”

READ ALSO New Tidbinbilla enclosure becomes a ‘house of the dragon’ (well, the cute earless ones)

These include a sport first used by the British cavalry as a way of wreaking havoc on enemy camps. Riders would pass through camps predawn, severing or uprooting tent pegs as they passed through, collapsing the tents on their alarmed occupants. Nowadays, ‘tent-pegging’ takes the form of riding at a gallop and using a sword or lance to pierce, pick up and carry away a small ground target.

For the first time, Geoff says they also added a ‘Horse Experience’ where the public can watch first-hand how horses are trained for roles in movies (think Black Beauty).

“That seemed to be a hit.”

Organisers added robots to the show’s ‘Science Extravaganza’ to increase its appeal – and it worked!

“It’s an area where we normally find it difficult for people to go, but as soon as everyone under 12 saw the robot demonstrations, they were in there and engaging.”

The show also brought back chicken-egg incubators this year, so people can watch a chick chipping its way out of an egg.

Royal Canberra Show

The Royal Canberra Show doesn’t stop at sunset. Photo: Royal Canberra Show.

Last year, organisers had to contend with ‘freedom’ protestors who had camped at EPIC in the weeks leading up to the Royal Canberra Show. While the 1000-strong group was gone by the time the show opened on 25 February 2022, the mess and mud delayed set up by several days.

Before that, COVID restrictions had curtailed the two previous annual shows, forcing experienced staff to seek employment elsewhere. The 2022 iteration was carried on the backs of volunteers, including Geoff himself. Fortunately, the situation recovered in time for 2023.

READ ALSO A film crew wants actors for local Stephen King adaptation and they’re looking at you

“The 2022 show was also the first event coming out of COVID,” he says.

“We had to count people coming in and out of buildings, which we didn’t have to do this year. People also didn’t feel as vulnerable coming out this year as they did last year.”

For next time, Geoff says they hope to improve the show’s connection to public transport, particularly the closest light rail station.

“When the fireworks finish in the evening, a lot of people head home on the light rail, so there’s a wait of 10 to 20 minutes for people to get on. The last people left here at 10:30 pm.”

The next Royal Canberra Show will be held at EPIC from Friday, 23 to Sunday, 25 February 2024.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.