According to the website, “The Easter Show is Australia’s largest annual event, an iconic showcase of Australian culture, heritage and excellence,” and I arrived in Sydney just in time to experience it.
The 2011 Sydney Royal Easter Show is held at Sydney Showground at Sydney Olympic Park from April 14 to 27, 2011. Adults can buy a ticket that includes public transportation to the show for AU$34. The same ticket for children ages 4 to 15 is AU$22.50 and those under 3 are free. There are even discounts for anyone arriving after 5 pm. After going to the Show and seeing most of the venue (it’s huge and I probably missed some places), I have to say that it’s worth the price of admission.
So what exactly is the Royal Easter Show all about? It’s a carnival, county fair, rodeo, extreme sport venue, arts and crafts show and much more. Apparently more than 900,000 people come through the gates each year, according to the website. The Show celebrates all aspects of Australia and provides a single venue where visitors are entertained and educated.
I got up early and walked to the Rooty Hill railway station, which took about 20 minutes, purchased my Showlink ticket and waited for the next train. When it arrived, there weren’t a lot of people on it. I worried that I’d get lost, even though I had already looked up the directions online and had asked the station’s manager how to get there. This is my Type A personality coming through again. Still, since it was my first solo train ride I decided to play it safe and sat near a family. As it happened, I overheard that they were going to the show as well. Right on!
We rode to the Lidcombe station and hopped off. There were signs everywhere directing us to the connecting train, which basically served as a shuttle between the Olympic Park station and Lidcombe. Guess I didn’t have to worry about getting lost after all as it was a cattle drive from one station to the next.
Once we arrived at Olympic Park, I just followed the crowd and entered from the carnival area. There were some awesome rides that looked fun, but I was on a mission and carnival rides were not on the to-do list. Also, you had to pay for ride tickets to get on the rides and I was trying to keep expenses to a minimum.
After a quick loop around the rides, I looked at my map and decided to do a counter-clockwise loop around the grounds. First, I headed to the Woodchop Stadium and watched a few different matches. I’ve seen woodchopping events on TV before and they make it look easy. In person, it’s a completely different story.
In the first event, one man had to saw a slice of wood off using a saw built for two. In another event, called a Jack and Jill, it was a relay race. The men had to stand atop the wood and hack it down the middle until it broke into two pieces. Then, the action passed to their female teammate who had her own wood to chop. Teams came from all over Australia and New Zealand. There was even a female competitor from Oregon. Apparently there is a ranking system in place because certain teams or people had up to 30 seconds head start.
It was getting hot so I headed over to a large building that housed arts, crafts, home and garden supplies and a Woolworths Fresh Food Dome. The art section was really incredible as there were an abundant amount of photos, paintings and drawings on different topics. There were also displays of needlework, stitching, crocheting, cake design, leather work and any kind of arts and crafts you could imagine. The home and garden area was similar to an expo, where they were selling all new products to make your life easier.
The Woolworths Fresh Food Dome was extremely crowded compared to the other sections. I couldn’t figure out why until I finally got to the middle and saw that they were giving away free samples. This gave me flashbacks of Costco samples at home. As I was in no rush and getting a bit hungry since I skipped breakfast, I decided to fight the crowd for a bit of free food. Hey, I’m on a budget you know and free anything is always good.
The samples ended up being quite good. They had a couple different sourdough breads, roasted turkey cold cuts (delish!), fresh salmon (didn’t wait around for it to cook as the crowd here was massive), hamburger, chips and dip, trail mix, spicy pumpkin soup (absolutely horrible) and yogurt. Not a bad haul for about 20 to 30 minutes of waiting around.
With my hunger curbed, I headed over to Cathy Freeman Park and caught a bit of the dog agility demonstration.While their skill levels varied from amateur to pro, it was still delightful to watch the dogs interact with their humans. They were so eager to please and very excited to do the runs.
Next I looped through the World Bazaar, which had items from all over the world and reminded me of a swap meet. Then I followed the Animal Walk, which literally is a path of footprints on the ground that leads you throughout the park, to see all the livestock and farm critters.
As I mentioned earlier, some aspects of the Show are like a county fair. Farm folk bring their cattle, sheep, horses, pigs, goats, llamas, alpacas, turkeys, roosters, hens, geese, pigeons and other types of livestock for judging and awarded blue ribbons. Not only are there a variety of animals, but there are many species of them. I have never seen so many animals in one place before. There were rows and rows of chickens, warehouses full of different cattle and pens of the largest pigs I’ve ever seen. There was even a place to watch chicks hatch. After touring the different locations, I now literally know what it means to pee like a racehorse and be hung like a bull. No joke. My favorite part of the livestock area was the petting zoo. There were so many sheep, goats and chickens walking around. I spent a long time here sitting on a bale of hay and playing with the animals.
Next I headed to the Main Arena because I heard singing. Unfortunately, I missed the concert and got there in time for them to introduce all the people responsible for the Show. Since this was boring, I decided to have a look-see at the food they were selling. There was a lots of variety for a stadium-type place but, as expected, all were equally expensive. Having only eaten the Woolworths samples and a jelly sandwich, I was starving so I broke down and bought some chicken nuggets with chips (aka fries) and a bottle of Coke for AU$13. Despite being overpriced, at least the chips were from a fresh batch and they gave me barbecue sauce.
I found a pretty good seat near the middle of the stadium and kicked back to enjoy the show for the next several hours. I was lucky enough to come on a night when they were doing a Grand Parade of all the animals. This is truly an amazing feat as it gets all the animals into the stadium at one time. There were only a couple of mishaps when spooked cows/bulls got loose but they didn’t last for long. How one person can lead around a huge beast like that without being trampled is crazy.
After the parade, there was a rodeo competition between the city and country featuring the Rodeo Young Guns. They are a group of teens under 15 who did barrel races, bronco and bull riding and bull roping. It was really cool to see these kids as they hung on for dear life – and eight seconds – while a bull tried to buck them off.
In the evening, there was a cowboy show called The Wild Ride of Cobb & Co. with racing stagecoaches and cowboys. To kill time between events, a country singer came around on the back of a truck and sang songs. He sang some of his own songs as well as popular American songs.
There was a motocross exhibition with three riders on bikes doing jumps off a ramp X-Games style. I couldn’t get any pictures of them as the ramp was facing me and the spotlights flooded my camera.
Afterwards, there was a precision driving team of four trucks that did tricks as well as drifted around the stadium. At one point, all four lined up with two facing forward and two facing backwards as they circled the track. Their bumpers were only inches apart! Very cool.
To end the night, there was a great fireworks and laser show. At its conclusion, everyone raced to the train. I haven’t figured out yet whether I’m just an extremely slow walker, my legs are too short or if Aussies just walk really fast, but people were passing me left and right. Also, I kept forgetting to stay on the left and not the right for the “slow lane.”
Eventually all that racing didn’t get them anywhere. The Olympic Park train runs every 5 to 7 minutes so there are always more coming. I hopped on and had to wait at Lidcombe for 25 minutes before catching my train back to Rooty Hill. Sharon and Eric picked me up at the station so I didn’t have to walk home. Good thing too because my feet were sore by then, even though I was using my new hiking boots.
And speaking of hiking boots . . . they are so worth the money. My boots were on sale for AU$100 and are ankle high so they are very supportive. Good thing I didn’t buy any in Hawaii as we probably don’t have the same variety or quality. These boots are really comfy even as brand new as they are.
The Sydney Royal Easter Show was a fabulous way to spend the day. If the ticket were for unlimited admission, I’d probably go again to see all the shows and exhibits that I missed. I suppose it’s not financially feasible to do that, but c’mon, look at all the money they’re making on food, drinks and snacks alone. It was a long and tiring day, but one that was very successful.