The Inimitable Nimmitabel Show

I have a confession to make. A slightly embarassing confession – I cry at parades. And on Saturday, I discovered that I cry at agricultural shows too.

There’s something about a group of people working together, selflessly, with the simple aim of celebrating being alive that I find deeply moving. In an era where so much of what we do is driven by consumerism and selfish gain, there’s something affirming about witnessing a group of people getting together to simply share their skills, their pleasures and their connections.
On Saturday afternoon, the Professor and I drove through the Bega Valley and up into the mountains to visit the annual Nimmitabel Show. We took a while to get there, stopping off at various towns along the back roads to put up posters for Mr Punch’s next Saturday show. We bought coffee in Candelo and stopped for one of Bemboka’s famous pies. (It seems that every second country town in NSW is the home of a different famous pie and we’re keen to try them all.)

It was mid-afternoon by the time we made our way over the mountains to Nimmitabel. The countryside west of the mountains was a shock after the lush, verdant vallies around Bega. The Nimmitabel Show was held in the wide, dry yellow fields on the edge of the town. Grasshoppers leapt up around our ankles as we climbed out of the car and made our way over to the sheds where the show was being staged.

Before we arrived, I’d imagined that I’d already attended a country agricultural show. A little bit like some of the people who come to see Mr Punch, I believed at some point in my life I simply must have been to one of these events. I’d read so much about country shows, seen them on TV, read about them in fiction and was so familiar with the idea of them that I was surprised to realise I’d never attended a real show before now. I’ve been to the Royal Melbourne Show more times than I can count but this was different. There was no noisy commercial Midway, just a bouncy castle and a very ancient looking Chair-o-plane. There were no showbags, except for the National Party incumbent’s sad little yellow shopping bags with a couple of pamphlets inside. There were beautiful, well cared for livestock, historic tractors, steam and diesel pumps, crocheted rugs and a huge array of fruitcakes. There were fantastically inclusive prizes embracing the efforts of everyone from primary school artists through to sophisticated quilters. There were a lot of very nice people enjoying what they did well and celebrating their working lives and rural pleasures.

We watched the shearing competitions, checked out the prize winners in every category from scones to angora sheep, ate some very rich and creamy locally made blood-plum ice-cream, admired the horsemen, horsewomen and young pony-princesses, and listened to a group of musicans play a combination of Australian/Irish folk music on a verandah while the ladies form the CWA (Country Women’s Association) served tea and sandwiches. It was all very simple and it made me want to cry.

A good friend of mine from Melbourne grew up around Nimmitabel and had tipped us off about the show. I’m so glad she did. It was too late for the Professor to line up a Punch gig. That spot had already been nabbed by a magician – The Maginifcent Zaboni. But maybe in years ahead, Punch might wind up on the bill at shows like Nimmitabel. I’d be really pleased to tag along if he did. Agricultural shows reveal things about human nature, about landscape and our place in it, that I don’t often spend much time thinking about. And perhaps everyone needs to think about our connections to the land and our place in it a little more often than we do.

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Books are windows into other ways of being.”

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