The Ekka is the annual state fair of Queensland, Australia. It was originally called the Brisbane Exhibition and is now known as the Ekka because Australians like to chop up long words and stick a vowel on the end.
For ten days each August The Ekka takes over the RNA Showgrounds and attracts over 600,000 visitors. This year the highlight of the show was buying a plastic cup of ice cold lemonade from an English girl in an ugly yellow baseball cap and matching T-shirt. Me.
Attractions at Ekka include fairground rides, a sideshow alley full of rigged games where you spend $100 to win a stuffed toy, animal parades, woodchopping competitions, agricultural displays and equestrian events and Showbags.
Showbags are a uniquely East Australian phenomenon. Brisbanites are obsessed with them, children save up their pocket money for months to buy them and no one leaves the show without ten in each hand. The bags themselves are mostly bright plastic carrierbags with cartoon characters on the front and they are mostly full of the kind of crap that you'll either never use or tones of sweets that you will eat within an hour of arriving home.
There is a whole giant pavilion dedicated to showbags at the Ekka. The most popular showbags with teenage boys were the army bags, containing a helmet, a machine gun, platic hand grenades and some camouflage bullet proof vest. The Ninja bags were also extremely popular and containing plastic swords, plastic death stars, rubber nunchucks and a black head scarf and body armor. It was great fun to watch 18 year old boys dressed in these outfits meant for 10 year olds & stalking each other through the crowds.
Another popular novelty item was the inflatable baseball bat. Children aged 3 to 8 particularly seemed to enjoy demanding that their fathers buy them one and then beating the crap out of him with it when he did.
Teenage girls (and for that matter the 20 somethings too) were all about the angel wings and furry halos. The black wings with real feathers were partiularly in demand due to the large contingent of goths and rock chicks inhabiting Brisbane.
On the final day of the Ekka I gave in and bought a couple of showbags. One was a Cadburys bag containing chocolate and a really cool pack of Cadburys playing cards. I also bought a New Woman Magazine bag (it was on sale) which contained a variety of stuff ranging from foot moisturizer to Hoi sin sauce and a back issues of magazines. All in all quite a pleasing haul.
My lemonade stand was in prime selling location, which meant that on the sunny days it was busy all days. Ekka week is notorious for bad weather and on the first 2 days of the show I was so cold I was layering up in 2 t-shirts, a sweat shirt and the bright yellow rain mac provided by my boss.
Standing directly in front of my stall were 4 off duty firemen selling the 2006 Fire Fighters of Queensland calendar. We struck up a friendly relationship with the fireman and snuck them free lemonade when the boss wasn't around. Occasionally some of the guys who had posed on the calendar would come down for a shift and they were always being asked to sign the calendars and pose for photos with the house wives. The most popular and most pretty was Rob who was on the front cover.
The stall next to us sold Fairy Floss (that's Candy floss in England and Cotton Candy in America). The stall was manned by the Mad Maria and Chris the Canadian backpacker. Chris was gorgeous and great fun and of course had a girlfriend. Maria was born and bred on the show grounds of Australia and has spent her life traveling from town to town with her family making fairy floss. Maria is a Showman not a Worker she gets very upset if any one dares label her as such. There is a distinct difference in the 2 which forms the basis of the traveling shows very own class system. Showmen own stalls, rides and canteens (burger vans and snack carts etc). Workers simply work for the Showmen. Showmen (Showys) are born into show families and the of the families that work the shows are extremely large and always extended. Mingling in the form of dating and relationships between these two classes is frowned upon. It doesn't matter if the worker has been on the shows for 20 years it is still a huge black mark upon the name of the Showy who dares enter into a relationship with one.
Maria was dating a worker. Her brother was not happy about this and decided to sabotage the relationship by spreading rumors. When Mad Maria found out she went off her nut and stalked off to find him and punch his lights out. Chris took the opportunity to sneak me some free Fairy Floss in exchange for some lemonade.
History of the Ekka & Ekka Official Site