When Canberra comes out to play

When we lived in Denmark, one of our favourite days out of the year was the Roskilde Dyrskue, or agricultural fair. It always provided a wonderful mix of great weather, pet and farmyard animals, interesting and bizarre sports, and attractions for the kids. In short, it was the perfect day out and one that we thought we’d miss after our move.

A view of the show's main arena.

Show-jumping in the foreground and a funfair in the background at the Royal Canberra Show.

Not a bit of it, because Canberra has an agricultural show all of its own – the Royal Canberra Show – and it offers all the things you’d expect, plus a few surprises too.

A view of one of the smaller arenas with the cattle show in progress.

Farmers line up to show off their prize cattle.

We went last Saturday, when a slightly uncertain morning blossomed into a gloriously sunny afternoon. The smiling weather seemed to bring out the smiling crowds too, because long before we sighted the show itself, we had to drive through acre upon acre of parked cars looking for a space. That’ll teach us to arrive earlier next year.

Immediately inside the entrance, the family was torn in multiple directions. Should we find out how to sign mini- and maxi-CBRbound up for the local Cubs and Scouts, or go and pet some llamas, or go and watch the Canadian Lumberjack Show, which was about to start. We did all three (although admittedly, the llamas got short shrift once a lumberjack started scaling a tree-trunk). An hour later, we were still only 300 metres inside the gate.

Two lumberjacks in a race to saw logs.

The Canadian Lumberjack Show drew big crowds of all ages.

Given how brutal the Aussie sun can be, there was a welcome mix of indoor and outdoor attractions, with food and craft stalls aplenty. We came home with a souvenir horseshoe and some hand-carved wooden toy guns which, thankfully, didn’t raise suspicions at the Federal Police’s stand and the boys were able to sit on a police bike and sit in a patrol car.

There was a whole alley devoted to ‘showbags’ which are a new thing to us. Apparently they are something of a tradition here in Australia – you hand over $20 or so and you get a bag full of sweets and toys linked to some particular theme or other (Cadbury’s chocolate, the How To Train Your Dragon films, various football, AFL and rugby clubs, and so on).

Crowds mill around stalls selling showbags.

The ‘showbags alley’ introduced a new concept to us non-Aussies.

We reached the main arena in time to see some bareback show-jumping, trotting races and a bit of motocross. In the setting sun, we drank beers (not the little ones, you understand), ate pizza, bumped into some friends and then headed over to the fairground where the kids tried to see which ride would make the pizza reappear.

A Shetland pony and a baby deer side-by-side.

A pony and a fawn graze side by side in the small animals enclosure.

After a bit more wandering around the stalls, we began to think again about that jam-packed car park and headed off before the end of night firework display. We’ll plan it a bit more thoroughly next time, but there will definitely be a next time. Just as in Denmark, we found it to be the perfect family day out, with just the right mix of police cars, beer tents, newborn chicks and white-knuckle rides – and it’s not often you get to write a sentence like that.

A sunset view of the main arena.

Even as the sun was setting, the fun didn’t stop.

The funny thing is, we didn’t only experience the agony of choice inside the Royal Show, the event also overlapped with Canberra’s Enlighten Festival and the Night Noodle Markets in the city centre. In most places just one of these events would be the only show in town, but in Canberra there’s something different almost every night of the week. Seriously, this is a city that is spoilt for cultural choice, and so are we now. Which is just brilliant.

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