Whadda we want? Big hats! When do want ’em? NOW!
Damn right we do, and the place for big hats, big belt buckles and big (no: little) motorised jeeps that double up as mobile PA systems is of course Walgett Show!
It was a glorious May afternoon when S and I cruised down the Castlereagh to the show grounds. S had worked in Walgett and so seemed to know everyone from the people collecting the gate fees to the kids in the cake decorating section of the produce sheds. She took me on a guided tour, which is helpful as I have absolutely no sense of direction (fact).
We started with the sheepses. Australia was built on the sheep’s back (or is that sheeps’ backs), and in Walgett they still breed champion fleece-bearers.
There was an entire shedful of fleeces. I know as much about fleeces as I do about surfing (nothing) but I did enjoy this display. They’re very tactile, and the odour of lanolin was rich and heady. I could have stayed in there all afternoon, but there were other things to be overwhelmed by.
The fowl, for instance. I’m not mad on ducks as a show item. My sister has chooks and ducks and prefers the ducks and, sure, maybe they have quirky personalities and so forth, but I find them a bit meh. Chooks are the go. There were all kinds of show ponies (if a chook can be a show pony): ones with iridescent colouring or bizarrely arranged plumage, but this little guy quietly took out the large hardfeather category. Go champ!
(No, I don’t know what a large hardfeather is either. Google it.)
Outside was a row of white bulls with the most unfeasibly large testicles I’ve ever seen. They were breathtakingly large (the testicles, though the bulls were pretty humungous too) and I physically shuddered at the thought of having to walk around with a pair of gigantic cajunas clattering against your kneecaps all day long.
Feeling faint and a little queazy, S supported me by the elbow and led me to the indoor displays. Refreshed by the cooler environment, I took a calming stroll around the dressmaking, embroidery, quilting and other lady crafts. (I did look to see if any of the entries were created by men: none were.)
I was briefly startled by a collection of painted skulls, a Walgett novelty. There should be more of this. In fact, it’s disappointing that there were only four entries. Surely there are more abandoned skulls around the Walgett Shire than this? Shame, Walgett, shame!
There were cakes. Lots of cakes. They all looked good to me, but then I know as much about cake making as I do about fleeces and surfing.
I’m not much on roses either, but this one was very impressive, especially as it must’ve bee sitting in a wee jar for a day or so. (Note: I’ve been influenced by S here; she’s a Scot, and so when I say “a wee jar” I mean a small jar, not “a jar of wee”.)
The class of Ms Martinez, art teacher at Lightning Ridge Central School, was well represented in the portraiture section.
What is the collective noun for solar systems? A galaxy? There was a galaxy of them in the science section, some of which were seriously well put together. I do like a good school project in a show. Someone had done a poster on Mongolia. I wonder if, on show day in far-off Ulaanbaatar, there’s a kid putting together a poster on Walgett. Please let it be so.
Not everyone, I think, had scheduled the creation of their project quite as well as the solar system group. Having said that, thumbs up to Kristian for having a go. It’s labelled, colourful and accurate. What else do the judges want?
Fully recovered from the testicle incident, S led me to the canteen. I have to say that this was quite easily the gourmetiest show canteen I have ever EVER seen. EVER. They had sushi! SUSHI! W.T.F.!
Is that really “home cooked asparagus & cheese quiche with garden salad”?
S got the ham roll, which she declared “delicious, but a bit bready”. I can see what she means; I’m guessing that that bread isn’t Newtown-quality Turkish, but then that is such a snarky and niggling criticism I’m not even going to think it. A new benchmark has been set in agricultural show catering. I can’t see anyone knocking Walgett off in a hurry. (Yes, that is a challenge.)
We wandered over to the ring, where little urchins were shinning up and down a climbing wall. We bumped into J, from school, and she told us that Walgett Council had put this on for free. How good is that?
On the news that evening was an article on how the government was targeting obese kids and their parents in a campaign to encourage more exercise and better diets. I hardly saw any overweight kids at the show; what I did see was little kids in big hats, denim and belt buckles as big as their heads, and none of them were outside their recommended BMI. Bush life is good.
A huge line up of Harleys ringed the race track. The Wandering Walgett Wildcats were handing out awards for best bike, best dress up and so on.
Is it a feature of the modern world that, while there were about 35 motorcycles, I could only count about seven horses in the actual oval for the quarter horse trials.
They were fascinating to watch, though I didn’t know what a quarter horse is, was or does. This time I’ve Googled for you, it’s “a horse of a small stocky breed noted for agility and speed over short distances”. The event was a kind of cowboy dressage, but instead of English gents in red jackets and that sitty-uppy posture these guys had Akubras and a long, straight-legged riding style. Their horses had to do all kinds of quick turns, and tricks like walking sideways and backwards, the the riders cracked a whip by their heads to show that their mount was totally unfreakable.
We headed back to the main area to watch a fashion display sponsored by Walgett dress shop Frock On. The catwalk was the grassy area by the guinea pigs and rabbits; local women strutted their stuff as gamely as possible, given that mums obliviously pushed buggies right past them and kids, engrossed in their fidget spinners, nearly careered into the models.
After that it was a mosy down showbag alley and past the dodgem cars. It was still daytime and there’s something sad about carnival rides in sunlight. They’re like washed-up old rockers: they need darkness and coloured lights and a couple of lines and don’t wake up till late. As we drove out the gates, small knots of Walgett youth were making their way down Come By Chance Road to the show, twitching with anticipation. I remember that feeling. There’d be the thrill of trying to get on rides without the carnies seeing you, of filling up on junk, of boys showing off to girls and girls showing off to boys, of the smell and colour of the fireworks at the end of the night, of the long walk home in the dark telling stories of who did what to whom and why.
As for me, I had homemade vegetable soup and watched Gardening Australia and the news. Pushed a few lesson plans back and forth on my desk. Played cowboy songs on the mouthorgan.
S told me the show wasn’t as big as it had been in the past but I was impressed. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it was in the top 5 shows I’ve ever been to: big enough to have lots to look at but small enough that you got to see everything; outstandingly catered; and the most well-endowed bull south of the Barwon River.
Walgett Show: Star value 9/10.