Last weekend with our junior football commitments over (sadly) for another year, the boys and I travelled the two short hours north to my hometown of Hay for the 140th Annual Hay Show. A few months had past since my last trip and it was great to be back in the town where I was born and the district I grew up in.
Having missed last year’s Hay Show as well as the Hay Races in November, it had been quite some time since I had enjoyed a good catch up with my Hay friends. Like many rural areas in Australia, there are often only a handful of events throughout a year where the majority of people all come together for a catch up and there is nothing quite like a district’s annual agricultural show to draw an entire local community together.
As a child growing up on my parent’s sheep station 55km out of town during the 1970s and ‘80s, social outings were few and far between with the annual agricultural show at Hay being the highlight of our social calendar. Like all good parents, Father Bill and Mother made good use of emotional blackmail in the days and weeks leading up to the show each year. Our bedrooms were cleaned, chores were completed, all vegetables were eaten and good manners were in abundance lest the highly anticipated outing be cancelled.
There were several occasions over the years when excited anticipation turned to despair as rain began either the day before or in the early hours of show day morning. The Red Hill Station homestead is thirteen kilometres off the Sturt Highway and our family chariot back then was a 1972 Datsun 240c, which unfortunately was no match against the heavy black clay driveway once the rain came down.
This year we arrived at the show just before lunchtime on Saturday. The boys quickly vanishing down Sideshow Alley in search of “Dagwood Dogs”, fairy floss and dodgem cars with their cousins Kate and Will. Henry used a good portion of his “show money” on a plastic sub-machine gun that was almost bigger than he was and looked as though it would need a car battery to power it.
I paired up with Sam for a ride in a dodgem car; we pitted ourselves against Henry and Cousin Kate and their questionable driving skills… by the time the music had stopped I almost felt as though I needed chiropractic adjustment.
The main pavilion held a visual feast of cookery, garden produce, Merino fleeces, artwork, needlework, the primary school’s handwriting competition and an impressive photographic display by the “Hay Shutterbugs” local photography club. The CWA ladies did a roaring trade with their freshly baked scones with jam and cream and the Hay War Memorial High School’s Cook-Off drew a crowd of people to watch the finalists battle it out for gastronomic supremacy.
The rest of our day was filled in with catching up with friends while watching the equestrian events, working dog display and Sheepdog High Jump. That evening Hay’s own pyrotechnics guru “Slats” put on a spectacular and lengthy fireworks display that we all felt rivalled Sydney’s New Year’s Eve efforts.
The whole weekend reminded me once again of the importance of rural communities and that sense of belonging that we all crave. It also reminded me that there is now only five weeks to go until our own Barham Show – starting Friday night 19th and all day Saturday 20th October.
It’s time for all of us in the Barham – Koondrook district to study the Show Schedule, dust off cookery books, hunt for garden produce and long gum leaves, print photographs and tap into our own community spirit.