The kids and I set off for the Show on Tuesday morning. It had been about a decade since I’d been — ditto for Isaac, who went with a childcare group some years ago, and we’re not sure if Jeremy had ever been before.
Tuesday turned out to be a good day to go. Despite a slight threat of some showers, the weather looked good and in fact it never did rain, at least not on us.
The train got us to the Showgrounds pretty quickly — the kids seemed bemused by the idea of Showgrounds railway station existing purely to serve the venue. As we’d been able to buy the Show tickets at our local station, we went straight in, a cacophony of amusement rides greeting us just inside.
Up above the crowds a death-defying ride was dangling some foolhardy individuals upside down and swinging them around by their ankles. Or so it seemed. We could hear their screaming above the noise, and the kids — not the bravest when it comes to this kind of thing — vowed there and then not to go on anything so scary. I’m not overly enthusiastic myself about being shaken around like a ragdoll, and agreed with them.
Another death-defying ride / Plenty of bags of crap in the Showbag hall
We wandered around, first exploring the nearby Showbag hall. Once upon a time you had to remember to buy The Sun on the right day to get an advance list of showbags and their contents — these days it’s all on the Show web site, so we’d planned ahead.
I’d emphasised to the kids that they shouldn’t go mad spending all their pocket money, as we’d just end up with lots of junk food and crap toys — not to mention the supposed “Total value” of the showbag was likely to be inflated. The companies involved don’t get into this game to lose money, after all. They came away with 2-3 bags each, a mix of junk food and crap, and me with just a Cadbury one. Ultimately I can’t resist chocolate.
First stop after that was the nearby Dodgem cars. This proved to be a lot of fun, though the small track was rather overloaded with cars, and for much of the time we were in dodgem gridlock.
The Grand Pavillion had a number of free food samples which the kids eagerly devoured, and since it was approaching midday, got us thinking about lunch. It also had a temporarily unused kitchen demonstration area, where Jeremy noted with some amusement a laptop computer had been left on top of a stove, as if to cook it.
We took a look at the food court-ish area of the pavillion, but nothing grabbed us and we ended up buying burgers and so on outside. For some reason in the area we were in there were 10 tables but only 15 chairs, so quite a few people ended up standing around eating their lunches.
After lunch we looked around the Victorian government pavillion. Jeremy got a demonstration from a fireman on how to escape from a house quickly, both kids got to sit on a police motorcycle, and take a look at the inside of the back of a divvy van — without being driven home in it. Unlike past years, there was no sign whatsoever of a Myki display…
You’re going home in the back of a divvy van / Showgrounds, with the city centre in the background
In the stadium (which replaced the old arena, of which the only thing left is the grandstand) they were doing horse stunts. Elsewhere was wood chopping, and pigs in obstacle courses, and sheep and cows just standing around. One display had brightly-coloured cow statues, which were pretty cool. It was good to see that some of the traditional agricultural/rural influences were still there.
The kids then had a go on the Euroslide, a huge slippery-dip which purports to be the largest in the southern hemisphere. They liked it so much they had a second turn later on, and we also encountered a miniature train and a multi-level Giggle Palace-type house of obstacles.
My sister had asked via SMS if there was a Thomas showbag for young Leo. I let her know there was — $20 for a bag full of plastic crap, none of which really had anything to do with Thomas or trains, but which had the Thomas logo on each item. That’s the way it goes with merchandise for the toddlers I suppose. She looked at the web site herself, acknowledged it was crap, and said to go ahead and buy it for him.
By about 2:30 we had seen most of the Show, and decided to head home. The traditional inspection of the bag contents on the train ensued.
Euroslide / Peak hour can be horrific sometimes
We had a total of 7 showbags between the three of us (one bought for someone else). Looking around the train carriage, it was apparent that other families had been a little less restrained in their spending.
In fact one family observed in the Showgrounds had their pram loaded up with inflatable baseball bats. It left me wondering what they were going to do with them all. Just leave the kids alone that night to bash the hell out of each other, perhaps. “Here you go kids, go mad, whack away!”
This Herald Sun article notes that some families spent hundreds of dollars “to pass our childhood memories on to our kids”. It does add up surprisingly fast. By my rough estimate, we spent about $180 — $52 admission, about $45 on showbags, about $30 on lunch (we took water bottles with us), and the rest on rides. But the kids paid for their own lunches, showbags and most rides, which is a step towards them learning to be a bit more independent.
And the bottom line is we had a good time, and didn’t come home with too much crap.