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Looking Back Looking Forward ....The Sydney Royal  Easter Show

Looking Back Looking Forward ....The Sydney Royal Easter Show

Published by Catherine Kelly on 19th Mar 2021


I grew up in Central Queensland and as a child, going to the Capella & District Show was easily the highlight of the year. The rides, the fairy floss and the 4-armed bandits were overwhelming but I yearned to own a Kewpie doll and to have enough coins to buy a Show bag. My siblings and I were always dressed in our best and I recall the terror of my little brother Robert getting lost one year. Mum, now in her 54th year of being a member of the Country Women’s Association (QCWA), was always there dutifully caring for our needs and those of the crowd. Memorably, I recall the yellow crocheted dress from Grandma Duckett which had arrived in time but with the faint but unmistakable odour of her Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes.

For weeks in advance we would prepare our Show entries; embroidering, making aprons, deliberating over our cursive handwriting and designing and creating special art works. My mother made her delicious jams and cakes, and Dad prepared his honey, prize pigs and dairy cows for entry.

It was very exciting to watch my grandfather compete. He was a champion wood chopper – hardly surprising since the James’ family business was timber cutting and hauling timber using a team of horses, which made them one of the pioneering families of the area.

Back then my brother Robert and I were competing at the Show with our ponies, Pixie and Llanifer. Robert often won ribbons for Best Rider and I for my favourite rodeo event, barrel racing.

The agricultural show has been an integral part of Australian Rural Life – a community coming together to show off produce, machinery and inventions. It has created important marketing opportunities for Stud and Dairy animals of every description. It continues to be a place of celebrating our connection to the land, emphasising the importance of farming, and it has done so ever since the inaugural Sydney Royal Easter Show in 1823.

In 1983 I entered and won Miss Alpha Queensland Country Life Showgirl competition (Alpha was where we lived then), and I went on to the State finals at the Brisbane Ekka (The Royal Queensland Show) where I was awarded 2nd runner up. There, I was privileged to meet a number of girls who became lifelong friends.

So in the true tradition of the warring poets Lawson and Paterson, for me it has been a case of Sydney or the Bush. I love my Sydney life where I have now lived for over 30 years and the Sydney Royal Easter Show provides an important nostalgic link with my country roots. I love visiting all the animals, hanging out with my country friends from Little Big Dairy (whose delicious double cream will this year be dolloped onto those famous CWA scones), watching the wood-chopping and in particular, visiting the Arts and Crafts Pavilion. I tentatively entered my first millinery piece in 2009 and was thrilled beyond measure when one of my pieces won. My newly-awakened passion for millinery was given the green light with this recognition.

2020 saw the Sydney Royal Easter Show cancelled for only the second time in its history (the previous time being for the Bubonic Plague in 1919). So in 2021 we applaud the return of Sydney’s favourite agricultural show and for me, it holds a special delight as Hatters Millinery Supplies will be there to support the Millinery Association of Australia. We will be there showcasing our unique, handcrafted hats for our fellow and student MAA members, and demonstrating selected millinery skills while attempting to demystify our somewhat rare trade. Hatters Millinery Supplies are also a Silver Sponsor of the Millinery category so make sure you also check out this newly expanded section.

We hope to see you there to share a delicious CWA scone or a bag of sticky pink fairy floss.

Make sure you wear a hat…

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