I have professed my love for the North Dakota State Fair here before, and to this day it remains one of my favorite things on planet earth, even though I sadly haven't been in 3 years. So when I heard that Brisbane has a similar event - and that there is a public holiday off work so people can go - I said "I totes gotta go to that".
This state fair-esque event is called Ekka or The Ekka, I haven't really figured out which is correct, nor what "Ekka" means. To me it means gorging on deep fried foods:
And wishing I wasn't to big/old/heavy for awesome carnival rides:
I planned every single little thing I wanted to do/see/experience/eat for our day at Ekka down to the minute (almost). Why so anal, you ask? Because at $26 per person admission, I ain't ever going again. I love a fair - any fair, but not $26-per-person love. That is insanity! For comparison, an adult 1-day admission to the North Dakota State Fair (henceforth known as NDSF) costs $8. One third!
There are a few things that Ekka offers visitors that the NDSF does not:
1. Birthing animals
However many months it takes a sheep to gestate ago, they knocked up a bunch of sheep so they can give birth on display at Ekka. I can imagine nothing more horrific for a birthing mother of any species, but man is it fun/gross entertainment! They call it the Little Miracles Newborn Corner but I call it "What is that gross red sack hanging out of that sheep?" We didn't see an actual birth but the little guy in this picture is probably less than an hour old. Behind glass, for all the world to see, from the very moment he entered this world.
2. Fairy floss
"Fairy floss" is just another term for cotton candy. While I think the Australian word is much, much better, I find the fact that it's pre-made in a bucket (a bucket for crying out loud), and not spun fresh on a cone is revolting.
3. Show bags
I had ever heard the term "show bag" before I got here, but it's apparently a huge part of an Australian childhood. A show bag is a...bag...of crap, bought at events such as Ekka. The week before Ekka the newspaper published a show bag guide, 4 whole pages, listing all the bags that were available for sale - literally hundreds at different price points - and the exact contents of each and their retail value.
The main ingredients in each bag were candy, dinky little toys, comic books and crap of that nature, hence why kids love them so much. I was tempted to buy a candy or Oreo show bag, but I resisted the temptation since I had a bridesmaid to fit in to in a mere 2 months.
4. Carnies who are respectable people
I don't have a picture to back this one up, but the carnie situation in Australia is way, way different than anything I've ever seen at the NDSF. The carnival workers operating the rides and games had - brace yourselves for a shock - teeth.
At the NDSF they have always been the skeeziest dregs of society, chain smoking, unbathed, foul mouthed no-doubt-about-it ex-convicts. But here in Australia a lot of them were young Asian women with - I still can't believe it - a full set of teeth. Unbelievable!
5. Wood chopping competitions
This was so cool! I had always seen wood chopping competitions on ESPN and that outdoors-y TV network in the US but I've never seen it done in real life. Man, is it intense! These guys are crazy buff and put so much muscle in to chop chop chopping various pieces of wood.
My hat is off to anybody who can chop through several logs in mere minutes, as I know it would take me untold hours and endless bitching to chop through even one. I was scared they were going to chop their foot off with those crazy flying axes, but all limbs survived the day and I got to squeeze out a few semi-inappropriate lumberjack jokes.
As for similarities between Ekka and the NDSF, there were a disproportionate number of people of a wide girth, a.k.a. fatties, compared to what I see in everyday life but nowhere near as many as the NDSF. Not even a tenth compared to the NDSF.
There was ample odor of animal dung, which didn't phase me at all. When we were in the poultry barn (and you know how much worse poultry shit smells compared to other species, or at least you do now if you're city folk) Martin's eyes were burning and watering while I could literally hardly smell a thing. I do not claim to be country folk but I have spent more time around the scents of the barnyard compared to most city people. I'm going to admit it right here, right now: I love the smell of animal shit.
Ok, I don't love it, love it but it does bring back a lot of good childhood (and beyond) memories. I love it in this type of fair setting, not in everyday life. It doesn't phase me and is comforting. So I love the smell of manure...sue me!
Ekka was awesome, and I loved every minute of it. But I won't be back, for a few reasons: 1) The ridiculous admission price, and similarly ridiculous price of, well, everything there. 2) When I have a mid-week public holiday I damn well am going to spend it in bed and on the couch. 3) It's no NDSF. It tries, and it almost succeeds, but it fails. Ekka is no glorious, glorious NDSF.
I will leave you with some pictures of ducks with hilarious feather hats:
How hilarious and awesome are those?!