Friday, August 14, 2009

The Ekka

This isn't the post I had planned for today - I'm holding that one over until next week. What special event could cause me to alter my schedule, which is normally set three to four weeks in advance? Why, it's The Ekka, of course! This annual agricultural exhibition commenced at its current venue just outside the central city in August 1876, and was known then as the Queensland Intercolonial Exhibition. The Australian predilection for contracting words soon came to the fore, and the event is now commonly referred to as The Ekka, even in its own PR output. Its original intent was to showcase everything agricultural, from livestock to crops, from axes to machinery. This is still a vital part of The Ekka, but today it is also so much more. Our first old image is from 1914, and shows a parade of cattle in the main show ring. Did the photographer intend to have the prominent "Dining Hall" sign so visibly placed behind the prize beef cattle? :-)

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #193884)

I'm not sure when the "fun-fair" type of attractions were first included, but it must have been early on. Here is a photograph of a ferris wheel at The Ekka sometime around 1918. The garments worn by both men and women at the time are worth a look - click to get a better view.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #APO-030-0001-0020)

Naturally the Ekka is a huge hit with kids. Anyone reading this who has children will know what I am saying. When I was in my teens, nothing would stop me from attending - it was one of the "big four" events of the year. Taken chronologically, they were Easter (school holidays, and people give you Easter eggs!); birthday (people give you presents); The Ekka (school holidays, people give you money for rides and sample bags); and Christmas (school holidays and people give you presents!) Do you see a theme here? OK, I admit that I was a shallow child. :-) I think that people still go to The Ekka to have fun - they sure looked to be having lots of it when I took this photograph yesterday. The ferris wheel looks a fair bit more advanced than the earlier model, and note the unattached legs that are dangling in the top left corner. They belong to folk that were on a ride that looked like it could launch them to the moon.
(Photos: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

But, I have to confess that I don't go to the Ekka any more. Not since 1977 in fact. People's Day (the special Ekka public holiday), Wednesday 17 August, to be precise. How do I remember the exact date? My wife and I walked out of one of the pavilions to be confronted by a paper-boy selling The Telegraph, Brisbane's afternoon newspaper, now defunct. "The king is dead", screamed the headlines. We had a queen actually, but it wasn't that sort of royalty that was involved. We all knew what the headline meant. Elvis Presley, dead at age 42. I haven't had the urge to go back since - not even yesterday. I took the photos from over the fence.

(Note: Elvis actually died in Memphis on August 16. The time difference meant that the news missed the morning papers in Australia, where the time is fifteen hours ahead. In those pre-internet days, we were not to find out until the afternoon press was published.)

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Next: TCB - taking care of business


  1. These photos are absolutely brilliant. I love that one of the ferris wheel and those ladies going round with their gigantic hats on. They must have had seriously tight chin straps. And that top photo... those cows are very tidy. Is that Gregory Terrace to the right?
    I'm thinking how strange my world would be if I
    resolved never to do the thing I was doing when I heard of an idol dying. For me it would rule out jumping on my parents' bed with my dad still in it,(John Lennon) talking to my partner while he's on the toilet,(Lady Di - ok she wasn't really an idol but it was memorable) and drinking wine late at night with my parents (Michael Jackson). OK this comment has gone on far too long already.

  2. Hi Cara - I don't think the ferris wheel moved so quickly back in 1914!
    Yes, I take your point about cutting off your nose to spite your face. I must say that, even from the outside, the noise from sideshow alley was very emotive - brought back lots of memories.


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