Royal Show delights

Last week I discovered a new sport. Well, new to me at any rate. Tent pegging. Huh?!? 🙂

I was at the Adelaide Royal Show and late afternoon, I decided that it would be a fine idea to retreat to the Coopers Bar whilst there was some acoustic music on offer to accompany the spectacle in the main arena (and happy hour as well for a bonus!) But the main arena entertainment for part of that time was listed as “Tent Pegging”. So I’m thinking – wow, that sounds interesting (not!). What’s that all about, the fastest person to erect and take down a tent? That doesn’t sound very agricultural… but the lure of beer and music got me and along I went.

Tent pegging, as it happens, is fascinating! It is a “cavalry event of ancient origins” says Wikipedia – believed to have originated in India in the middle ages. For me, the most evocative description of its history is of cavalry charging into enemy army camps at dawn at speed and pulling tent pegs out on the run with swords and lances – thus plunging the enemy troops into disarray and making for an easy takeover by further mounted troops who would follow close behind.

These days, it is done without the tent. Basically the rider(s) charge across the arena holding a lance, with which they aim to pull a peg out of the ground as they charge past. Sounds easy – clearly is not! The event I watched was done in teams of either 2 or 4, where they would do the first charge in quick succession (rider 1 picks up peg 1, then rider 2 peg 2 etc), and then the second charge would be en masse, with the intention to form a line as they approach the second row of pegs all together. There was a wide range of skill level in the teams competing that day. One of the best competitors was a 13 year old girl who easily beat every other woman on the field.

What an inspiring sport! It made me want to ride horses… I was wondering why I had never seen any of this when I’d gone to the Perth Royal Show, but later an internet search confirmed that is a sport that is only really played in the eastern states of Australia – particularly in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. It is also popular in Canada, the UK, South Africa, Indian, Oman, Israel and Pakistan! Bizarre. I guess it’s a Commonwealth thing.

That was the second highlight of my day at the show. Earlier, I had decided to seek out the wood chopping arena to sit and eat my lunch. Without any planning, it just happened that while I sat there the final of the tree felling event was run. If you haven’t seen this event before, do yourself a favour and seek it out next time you go to a large agricultural show!

The competitors work their way to the top of a 4.6 metre pole – which represents the tree – by making nicks in the trunk that they then stick a special reinforced board in, before standing on that to make the next nick for the next board etc. After cutting a wedge at the top, they have to descend and do the same all over again for the other side. By the time they get to the point where they are (symbolically) felling the tree by chopping off the top section of the pole, they are standing on a flimsy board about 3.1 metres off the ground. Extraordinary! It represents earlier tree felling techniques I understand, but I suspect nowadays it only persists for the sake of the agricultural show competitions.

In this final, there were 6 competitors and it was a handicap event. The first few competitors to make their attack started on 3 seconds, the final competitor on 56 seconds – nearly 30 seconds after the previous one had started. I don’t need to tell you that this guy was in another league altogether! (one of two brothers in the competition). He actually completed his fell before a couple of those who started on 3 seconds, although he did not unfortunately place within the top three. But even the very last competitor to complete the task, who was perhaps 30 seconds after all the others, got the hugest cheer from the crowd, it was such a reinforcing atmosphere. Anyone with the guts and determination to compete such an event deserved a heap of praise and applause, and got it.

As for the rest of the show – well it was much like many other shows of this kind. I avoided the sideshow and showbags stalls, and the pavilion that appeared to be full of useless tatt.  But there were some interesting stands in some of the pavilions, but not having any money I didn’t spend too much time looking to be honest! I did a free wine & cheese tasting and discovered that maybe I’m a Pinot Grigio / Pinto Gris kind of girl. Browsing the art, photography, cooking, craft, floral and other displays was entertaining. There were some incredible bonsai trees, one day I swear I’m going to go all karate kid and do my own.

It was also pretty entertaining to sit at the local ABC radio stage for a while – ABC local has been my friend all my way around so far. Here in Adelaide on 891, they have an infamous evening show presenter called Peter Goers, who I just had to see in the flesh. He’s so un-PC. I don’t know whether to applaud him for his complete disregard of social norms and gutsiness, or to call for his dismissal. He was interviewing a key marketing person from the Show when I saw him and remarked how he appreciated that the Show was still a smoker-friendly place where he could light up anywhere. To which the reply was “but its not! we have specific smoking areas only.” Never the less, only 5 minutes later whilst on a break from live broadcast, there goes Peter lighting up – on stage, in the pavilion, in front of a small crowd of listeners including children and the Show employee – definitely not a designated zone. Extraordinary. A man who clearly makes his own rules. But I do find myself often still tuning in despite my best efforts…


About Yvette Hollings

Writer, born-again cricket tragic, rookie cricket player, occasional musician and songwriter. I love inspiring stories that empower everyday people.
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