The Festival Highlight of South Australia: The Royal Adelaide Show
Every sign pointed to The Royal Adelaide Show. Even the mooing, baaing and neighing was beckoning me to join one of the hottest events in the Adelaide calendar, which I’d never even heard of. When I saw the carnival rides looming high and happy faces making their way inside I decided it’d be rude not to indulge.
Run by The Royal Agricultural & Horticultural Society of South Australia in early September the show literally has everything you could ever want from a festival, fairground, carnival, village fete and animal show all rolled into one. More than 50,000 people a day turn up to the week-long celebrations.
I walked through the gates a tad shell-shocked and overwhelmed.
‘Programme?’ asked the girl who’d just jumped out at me. Smiling ear to ear she forced the pamphlet into my hand.
‘Errrm, yes. Err, where do I start?’
‘Follow the yellow brick road!’
She was smiling insanely – possibly mocking me – and must’ve sensed I was an out-of-towner.
‘Make ya way along the yellow track and you’ll see everything. Look after the programme in case you get lost. And make sure you watch the pig diving!’ she called after me.
Yellow brick roads and pig diving? Crazy Ozzie.
Turns out she wasn’t so crazy after all; I joined the yellow brick road and after it turned out there was actually a pig diving contest that afternoon. Sounded insane, I liked the show already.
First up was the carnival area, featuring a Slingshot, Big Dipper, Fungee Bungee, Dodgems and more. I gave the Slingshot a go and nearly threw my breakfast up on the unsuspecting locals below. I decided to stick to solid ground after that and, following carnival tradition, decided I was going to win a cuddly toy.
Now I’ve been to my fair share of theme parks, but I’ve never seen so much choice in carnival games as there was at the Royal Adelaide Show. I hedged my backpackers’ budget bets on the balls-in-the-clown’s-mouth game and, what d’ya know, won myself a cuddly kangaroo!
Skippy and I stuck to the trusty yellow path and took the farm walk to pet the prize-running produce as we went: sheep, cattle and alpacas by the tens. We shimmied past all the kids in the Old Ram Shed to pet the goats, but I had to just stick to ogling the rabbits, chicks and lambs from afar in the Farmyard Nursery. I got to milk a cow in the next shed though!
The Royal Show Street Parade passed by, boasting floats and surrounded by animals of every species. I passed by the dog pavilion filled with pedigrees competing for the Champion Awards, a horse show complete with jumping and dressage, sheep shearing competitions (could’ve made a few cosy cardigans out of all that wool ) and the wood chopping competition – muscles!
I was long due a feed so I sniffed out the Farmer’s Market. I was greeted with local cheeses, meats, breads, cakes and handily for me the tent led on to the beer and wine show. If one was so inclined, one could have a great merry old time in there with all the free samples and generous barmen. And, as I was so inclined, I emerged hiccupping with a shaky grin.
It was time for what it seemed was everyone’s highlight of the show – the Pig Diving and Racing. Each pig was given a different coloured sash and at the pistol start, raced around the arena. Then the valiant divers were placed on the diving platform and they trotted along before plunging snout first into the paddling pool below and out again down the track. I wasn’t sure which one won, but I headed to the Pigs & People tent after where I got to congratulate the competitors.
The Adelaideans compete in everything at the show – no cake is left unbaked, vegetable left unmeasured or craft left unmade – even the kids are at it with handwriting competitions and art contests. Winners can get upto $300 in prizes, so if you’re an expert in creating mohair fleeces from goats, sheaf tossing or whip cracking the Royal Adelaide Show is your time to shine.
The show sure does love its showbags. There’s a room dedicated to thousands of the things in different themes – think 100+ kids running riot, wretched parents attempting to control them and desperate sales assistants trying to keep track of takings. I got out of there asap, via the Tim Tam themed showbags of course.
To get the real Royal Adelaide Show experience I was told I needed to try a Dagwood Dog. It’s a frankfurter sausage with a stick rammed through it, dipped in batter and deep-fried, then plunged into a vat of tomato sauce. So while watching the beautiful fireworks I topped off a perfect day with a tribute. It was, err, interesting. Not good for the bikini body though, I’m sure.
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