The title of this post was going to be The Ekka, or something equally self-explanatory, but it will be known forevermore as The Red Balloon, appearing alongside the other candidates: Do Not Take Red Balloon Off Small Child, How Many Photos Can You Take With A Red Balloon In It, The Red Balloon – Taking People Out Since 2014, That Day We Lost The Red Balloon. Etcetera.
But goodness, I’m getting ahead of myself.
It’s that time of year. The newspaper is thumbed through over hot coffee, fingers hovering eagerly over each page waiting to find what they came for. And then, there it appears like a sunrise, full of hope and excitement and POTENTIAL.
The Ekka showbag list.
The official flag raiser.
This game is on.
Now, not that I know because I didn’t grow up in Brisbane, but from what I hear, the Ekka is the great icon of childhood. The great icon, I am assured. The great icon, I’m reassured. And as expected, I was lured in like a fish to a worm, giddy with the promises it held, the traditions begging to be made there – strawberry sundaes, baby animals, the dog shows, the parades, the showbags, sideshow alley, the woodchop competitions, the ferris wheel. I’ll take it all and I’ll take it now.
Last year was my first ever Ekka experience, and it was such a good day, we’ve been excited for weeks about going this year. What day will we go? What shows will we see? What will we eat? What will we WEAR? It will be the day we say yes, yes, YES to everything. Ice cream? Sure thing, honey. Another ride? You got it. What’s that? You want some hot chips? Of course! You don’t want your nap today? NO WORRIES.
There was a famous writer who, when asked if she loved writing, replied, “No. but I love having written.”
The Ekka is just like that.
We arrive, fresh-faced and willing, a ticket in our hand and a sense of adventure in our hearts. We pick out our favourite things and make a beeline for them, cramming as much as we can into our This Is Going To Be So Much Fun day. But after one hour within the swarming sea of humanity that is the Royal Queensland show, we are red-cheeked and agitated, trying really, really, really hard to stop gasping the f word in case our kids hear us.
We are like the Griswolds taking on Disneyland – children dishevelled and spilling from their prams, screaming at full capacity because they’ve missed their sleeps. Tomato sauce smeared on everything, as far as you can see. Missed trains. Kids knocked over by hungry goats. Navigating two strollers through, oh I don’t know, sixty million people I suddenly have severe rage towards.
By 3pm I call an intervention and direct my clan to the Woodchop Bar where I buy myself some medicine. I regroup my overwhelmed senses and remind myself that this is it – this is life – and that the word parenting, much like the word adventure, automatically includes the words shit hot mess as part of the package. It’s when we learn to laugh at it, that it starts getting really, really good.
I love having gone to the Ekka, and I I’ll be damned if you don’t see me hauling my family there again next year.
It’s tradition, after all, and ain’t nobody going to pass up tradition.
Besides, once I learned to laugh, it was stacks of fun.
Joel’s must-see event was the Woodchop. “Can you take a photo of me and Billy?” he said as the event started and I tried not to faint as I got out my camera. For Joel to want his picture taken, or for ANY picture to be taken, really, is serious business. I smiled, adjusted a few settings and took about a hundred photos, because I wanted to make him happy. His eyes changed as I watched him watch it, and it made me love him a little bit more because it was all just so him.
Ella, of course, loved the animals, as we knew she would. After getting butted by a goat and losing her shit in the middle of the animal arena, she shook off her Get Me The Hell Out Of Here agenda and loved every second of it.
And now we begin the Red Balloon series, the protagonist of this story.
If you have a child and if you are going to the Ekka, I would strongly advise against acquiring one of these balloons you see here. Once they reach your child’s hot little hand, they will never again be able to be pried from your child’s hot little hand, and you will decide – after one almighty near-loss-hysteria-situation – to tie the damn thing onto your child’s wrist. Then, as your child flits about this huge, pulsing mass of a fair, said balloon will knock about seventy people in the face, block the view of another seventy as they are trying to watch stuff, get stuck in pram tyres, get tangled in jumpers, and then, in the end, get ripped from hot little wrists and accidentally let go of, when which they will float into the sky never to be seen again. It’s all just SUCH an ordeal. Really, just avoid the entire situation if you can.
Oh Royal Queensland Show, thank you for your chaos and your dagwood dogs and your Peppa Pig showbags and your turkey legs and your buttered corn. Thank you for being an icon of childhood, and for making a little girl I know extremely happy. Until next year.