Every year the different tribes of Ekka-going people turn our for our Royal Show
Every year the different tribes of Ekka-going people turn our for our Royal Show

The tribes that come out for Ekka

EVERY big event at the RNA has its different tribes. There are the caravaners and the campers, the fishers, the car nuts, the boaties, the beer lovers, the dog people and the cat people, depending what big show or exhibition is on.

Usually, never the various proverbial twains shall meet.

Come August, though, and it is time for Brisbane's annual show, the Ekka, an event big enough to be all things to all people … at least those who don't mind the crowds, the noise, the expense - and mixing it with the various other tribes of Brisbane and its surrounds.

 

THE COUGHERS: PHLEGMUS GLOBULOSI

The cougher. Illustration by Brett Lethbridge
The cougher. Illustration by Brett Lethbridge

Ekka is a time of giving, as evidenced by the fact that every disease-ridden numpty within a 100km radius of Brisbane seems to arrive in town to share the latest strains of crippling colds, influenza, Ebola, leprosy and diseases as yet unknown to medical science. Usually they sneak up on unsuspecting victims - you're waiting innocently in a food line to mortgage the house for a deep-fried cholesterol bomb, and then from just behind there's a hacking cough, snark, schplork, sniffle and a big hoooonk into a soggy hanky, accompanied by a cloud of pestilence that would melt a hazmat suit.

 

THE COWBOYS: LEVIS MUSCULI

We love the smell of cow s--t in the morning, it smells like … Bowen Hills in August. These are the real country comes to the city boys (and girls) whose well-scuffed RM Williams are for function not fashion; the blokes with arms like fence posts who could clear fell the back paddock with a stern glare. The real-deal mob don't need to pretend, whether they are scarfing down Bundys in the Cattleman's Bar or debating the testicular merits of this year's prize bull.

 

THE URBAN COWBOYS: FRAUDULENT MAXIMI

The urban cowboy. Illustration by Brett Lethbridge
The urban cowboy. Illustration by Brett Lethbridge

A tribe seldom seen anywhere near the scene of possible animal bodily functions, hay, feeding troughs, hoses, horse floats, or the nuts and bolts of the "royal agricultural" bit of the show. These are the wannabes who in years gone by would have been described, none too politely, as being as flash as a rat with a gold tooth. Check out the never-been-scratched boots, the hat that is yet to meet a drop of sweat and the designer-scuffed strides that would split clear across the arse at the first sign of hard work. Likely to eat their pie with a knife and fork.

 

THE SHOWBAGGERS: BERTIE DELICIOSIS

This is the mob who defies the headlines about stretched household budgets and cost-of-living pressure. They travel in packs, often spearheaded by a pram with either a comatose or screaming child, and laden with enough superhero and assorted chocolate showbags to keep the Chinese plastic toy industry in business for another year, and pay the school fees of every dentist in Brisbane. A giant inflatable hammer, or whatever particular overpriced novelty item is this year's Ekka must-have junk, is as de rigueur as the Dagwood dog stains on the AC/DC T-shirt.

 

THE CRAFT LADIES: NANNAE OCCUPATUM

This lot are seldom spotted out in the wild and tend not to stray too far from their natural habitats - odd little corners of the Ekka where one can discuss the finer points of embroidery, ooh over watercolours and ahh over ceramics. This year the quilts are located up near the flower garden in the shadow of the Old Museum, a vicinity best avoided unless one wants to do battle with phalanxes of flowerpot nanas vying for the best petunia-viewing vantage point on the way to a stitching debate.

The craft ladies. Illustration by Brett Lethbridge
The craft ladies. Illustration by Brett Lethbridge

THE MOUTH BREATHERS: ZOMBI ERECTUSEA

Nowhere outside the Brisbane Ekka will you witness such a number of people born with a congenital disorder that prevents the inhalation of breathable air through the nostrils. These are creatures who slowly waddle about the precinct, slightly slack-jawed and mouths open; a sort of cross between animated laughing clowns from sideshow alley and the zombies trapped in the shopping centre in Dawn of the Dead. When there is no more room in hell, the dead will roam the showbag pavilion at the Ekka, breathing though their mouths.

 

THE SURGICAL STRIKERS: EKKA DETERMINI

Now these are totally different creatures, ones who tend to approach an expedition into the wilds of the showgrounds with almost military precision. These are the people on a mission, cutting through the herds of mouth breathers and the waddlers with grim determination to achieve just one Ekka goal. It could be an armful of Bertie Beetle bags for the girls (and boys) back in the office, the bloody toy the kids have been harping on about incessantly, meeting a mate for a beer or six at the Stockman's or the once-a-year hit of Dagwood dog followed by a strawberry sundae.

 

THE SUNDAY SCROUNGERS: PENNY PINCHAE SPENDTHIFTICIS

Let's face it, few people draw up a must-see Ekka bucket list with "check out the prize-winning pumpkin" at the top of the page. Come the final Sunday arvo, though, and the agricultural pavilion is apparently the place to be - just follow the people with empty wheelie bags and a murderous glint in their eye. This is when the fresh produce on display - you call that a cantaloupe, this is a cantaloupe - all gets sold off for chump change. The great thing about the spectacle is you have everyone vying for the same limited stock and it can all get a bit Hunger Games shaped, and trust me, never stand in the way of a pensioner and a $2 tray of avocados.

 

THE CHUNDERERS: VOMITAS LIBERALI

The chunderers. Illustration by Brett Lethbridge
The chunderers. Illustration by Brett Lethbridge

OK, only some - actually just a few - still go the full hurl after inhaling the perfect cocktail of deep-fried food, pre-mixed spirits and ice cream before tackling a few Gs upside down on a series of carny rides that sound like an old Valiant about to blow a diff. There is a whole tribe, though, who get off on high-priced adrenalin - being hurled through the air on a contraption run by a largely toothless bloke you wouldn't trust to service your lawnmower. And there is a subset of this mob who every night stagger off the rides to dump a liquid scream in various corners of sideshow alley - or on those unfortunate enough to be in the carriage behind them.

 

THE MARATHONERS: EXHAUSTIS AUTEM VICTORIUS

These are the families there to extract every last dollar of value from their day. They're scratching at the gates before opening time, and still stoically persevering when the last of the fireworks has finally fizzed. Look for the long-suffering parent, the masochist with the smart phone out trying to top up the credit card while resisting the urge to drown one of at least three small children in the nearest grease trap, while another screams that it is time to visit the kittens, and the third pokes passing mouth breathers with a plastic sword. Pray for them.

 

THE GRUMPIES: INTEMPERATATE FUROREM

These are the Ekka-goers who couldn't crack a smile on Prozac, who stalk the precinct with small dark clouds of bad attitude hovering over faces that look like they've sucked too many lemons - clearly there under sufferance and ready to spoil everyone else's day. They'll complain about all the tribes above, the cost, the crowds, the smells … and then come back next year and do it all again, because, deep down, it is actually a shed-load of fun.