This year marks the second staging of the Royal Easter Show since being shelved by COVID. Last year, despite a daily cap on visitors, the Show attracted the biggest post-COVID event numbers in the state. The annual Easter Show has a storied tradition. Sponsored by the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW, the event has entertained state residents since 1823. The affair goes for twelve days, including the Easter long weekend. Sydney Olympic Park in the western suburbs is the current home of the festivities. The event was previously held at Parramatta and at Moore Park. It is famous for its Easter show bags, which the kids love. There are also rides, games, and produce. It is also famous for its competitions, which include food, dog and cat shows, arts, cookery, and wood chopping.
In years past, the Easter Show has always been the hottest ticket in town. Crowds would converge on Homebush and on Easter Sunday, it was bumper to bumper. The show is massive enough to warrant a map. There are eateries spread over the grounds. There are dedicated pavilions for certain animals. Visitors are not supposed to feed them. I recall seeing an older gent instructing his grandson to throw some bickies at this goat. Good thing they weren’t seen. A while ago, my dad and I spent some time patting canines. A dog lover at heart, he was really looking forward to these furry critters. I also remember tossing some rings and winning a small snake.
Some of the games were rather constipated. They had so many restrictions: no leaning, no jumping, etc. There was nil chance of shooting ringless and walking away with the prized teddy. I also recall patting some alpacas. When I went there with family, I got a Pepsi show bag. It came with some drinks and knickknacks. The black Pepsi bag was the gem. I used it for a few months before getting a Jansport pack. Meanwhile, I remember going to sit at a bench. There was this Filo girl who kept her distance from this bearded man. He was holding a pram. ‘Fear the beard’, I thought.
An ex-classmate told me that he always looked forward to the woodchopping display. I had a look myself. In the last decade, the ticket prices have risen quite a bit. The current charges are $49.90 for adults and $39.90 for children. There are also options for a family pass. Indeed, even a while back, the high damage discouraged my ex-classmate. Public transport is also included in the ticket. Moreover, there used to be an option for cheaper entry after five pm.
Over the past two years, there have been some incidents that have tainted an otherwise cool event. Last year, a brawl erupted. This year, the same happened, only it had a fatality. There was also a ride hiccup when a disabled four-year old wasn’t buckled up. His mum was seeing red. The boo-boo was widely reported but thankfully, cooler heads prevailed.
Yesterday was Good Friday. This coincided with twelve days of free public transport across Sydney. The show was absolutely packed. Since the incident, there were more bag checks and tightened security. This made for very long queues. One kid said that he waited for an hour. Even inside the grounds, people were shoulder to shoulder. Due to the free travel in Sydney, the Friday numbers had quadrupled from last year. The same thing is happening at Sydney Airport. Employee absenteeism due to COVID coupled with the holiday rush has ensured the long queues. Some travellers had to book nearby hotels as others waited for many hours.
The Friday turnout was markedly different than Good Friday in the Philippines. As Catholics, the day is revered as the year’s holiest. All families are expected to stay at home, fast, and reflect. On Good Friday in Sydney, all the shops are closed. This has ensured that the masses flocked to the Easter Show. That day, not only was it the hottest ticket in town but also the only one. I’m guessing that most of the visitors weren’t Catholics.
Despite the wait, people will continue to flock to Olympic Park. I remember our Swedish teacher asking our class if we knew about the Easter Show. Sensing a few head shakes, she went on to say that ‘It’s a big show down in Homebush. They’ve got rides, food, tunes, and pets.’
I nodded along as though this was news to me. It’s not just dogs and alpacas; creatures big and small are there. From bunnies to cats, horses to chickens, there’s a pet for that. During one of my previous visits, I recall visiting the Seven tent, where I got to meet Alex Cullen, the former sports reporter and Sara Groen, the then-weather presenter. They both looked slimmer in real life. The Showgrounds are right next to Olympic Park station. Thankfully, the affair is always blessed with good, sunny weather. Tomorrow, Easter Sunday, should be as packed as Friday, if not more so. The school holidays, coupled with free travel and the Sabbath, will surely make it the busiest day. If you’re in town and looking for some fun, why not head to the Easter Show. It’s for everyone: kids, parents, oldies, hobbyists, and even kids at heart.