“And you’re guaranteed to come home with a cold,” warned another.
But as newcomers to Auckland, the Rugrats had seen the television ads for the Royal Easter Show, and were keen to experience it for themselves.
With a Pupil Free Day coinciding with opening day, I figured a visit to the show was well worth the risk.
Whether it was because it was day one of the show, or the crappy Auckland weather – rainy one minute, windy the next – the crowds we’d been warned about failed to materialise.
Instead, we were able to make our way around the grounds with ease – too easily, in fact, because we were obvious targets for friendly carnies in the Carnival Area!
The kids had a ball emptying my purse, as they fished for ducks, threw darts, and shot at targets with abandon. They were rewarded with a selection of cheap soft toys, jewellery and cars, which they predictably loved and passed onto me to lug around.
After a stop for yummy donuts (for them) and a surprisingly good coffee (for me), we hit the Cadbury International Magic Show.
Finding front-row seats was a bonus, and the kids were thrilled when the MC announced he would be giving away Cadbury Easter Eggs for everyone after the show.
Billed as an “edge-of-your-seat performance guaranteed to leave you spellbound”, the rather amateurish performance was unintentionally hilarious, due to problems with curtains and the sound system.
Performers were regularly left dancing to non-existent music, and in its place, we could hear mutterings from support crew.
“They opened the curtains too early,” we heard at one stage. “Shit!”
And later: “Have they got any music? Oh for fuck’s sake!”
Think of the children, people. The children!
The illusions were pretty cool though.
At the end of the show, the promised eggs didn’t materialise. Eventually we were told eggs would be available at some stage during the day, outside the hall, and it would be a competition with the eggs as prizes, not giveaways. And despite passing by often throughout the day, we saw no sign of any competition.
Really not good enough Cadbury.
I also thought it was tacky that only the kids whose parents had shelled out for magic wands and swords ($10 each) were invited down to the front of the stage to ‘help’ the performers. Way to make Mumma feel guilty guys!
The ASB Farm Zone was a hit though, with cute piglets, baby lambs, and silly calves to admire. We were told not to pat them, but the kids did get to hold a fluffy chicken each, and milk a fake cow.
A tour of the marketplace was next, before H. dragged us back to the theatre for The Funky Monkeys.
The energy, talent and professionalism of these guys more than made up for the Cadbury show, and they soon had the kids (and oldies) up and moving in the aisles.
C. was thrilled when he won a prize for dancing, and the Monkeys all met their fans, signed autographs, and posed for photos after the show.
The pony ride and dodgem cars were also a hit, before the rain drove us back into the Farm Zone. I ended up shelling out on a few more rides in the Kids Zone, but the kids had fun and at least we stayed dry.
We wanted to stay for Chelsea and her star dogs, the circus, and a few other attractions, but by then we were cold, wet and tired. Plus, I was pretty much out of money (don’t tell my husband!)
Our verdict? It was expensive, but the Royal Easter Show was a fun family day out. And after all, it’s only once a year.
And we didn’t even catch a cold!
I've never been to Sydney's Royal Easter Show, but as a veteran Brisbane Ekka attendee, the comparisons were inevitable.
Here are some differences between the Auckland show, and our own back home:
- At the Auckland Show, there were no showbags on sale. Unbelievable, but true. The kids were disappointed, but I was secretly pleased not to have to shell out big money for cheap crap.
- They don't have Dagwood Dogs or Pluto Pups. They do have 'Hot Dogs', which are a battered meat sausage on a stick (not a battered frankfurt). American Hot Dogs are frankfurts in buns.
- The carnies were really friendly and chatty, especially with the kids. One of them gave Harmonie several extra goes to allow her to get a prize.
- And it's not Sideshow Alley. It's the Carnival Area.
- There were no strawberry ice-creams. In fact, I don't think there was any iconic show food like there is at the Ekka.
- There were wine and art categories, and ubiquitous animal exhibitions, but no cake icing competitions, baking, flowers, fruit and veg, or anything like that.
- There were no queues for anything (though I'm told that's unusual).
- There are no fireworks at night
- Overall, the show was much smaller than we are used to, but on this occasion, was a much more enjoyable experience than the overcrowded, busy Ekka.
- The main similarity? The expense. It cost us $30 just to get through the gates, and I shudder to think how much we spent on food, drink, rides and games. It was a fun day out though, and I'm glad we checked it out.
Our least favourite part of the day - the traffic as we drove home!