The Ekka is the annual agricultural show of Queensland, Australia. Its formal title is the Royal Queensland Show and it is held at the Brisbane Showgrounds. It was originally called the Brisbane Exhibition, however it is more commonly known as the Ekka, which is a shortening of the word exhibition. It is run by the The Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland.
The Ekka is Queensland's largest and most loved annual event, which welcomes an average of 400,000 visitors each August. It brings the city and country together for a 10 day celebration of what makes Queensland great. The show welcomes 21,000 competition entries, 10,000 animals, a smorgasbord of award-winning food and wine and hours of free family entertainment, including the spectacular night program. The Ekka features a sideshow alley, showbag pavilion and nightly fireworks displays. In 2017, the Ekka will be held from 11 - 20 August.
The significance of the first exhibition held in 1876 was described by locals as the most important event since the separation of Queensland from New South Wales in 1859.
The first show, held between 22–26 August 1876, attracted 17,000 visitors. The centrepiece of the grounds was the timber exhibition building which housed 1,700 individual exhibits in total. One of the first popular attractions was a timber bridge built by saw-miller William Pettigrew. The show was a spin-off from the famous International Exhibitions being held in Britain and worldwide dating from the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851.
A new grandstand designed by Claude William Chambers was open for the 1906 show. It was later named the John Macdonald stand in recognition of a long-serving member of the Royal National Association. In 1920, the show was visited by King Edward VIII who was asked and gave permission for the name of the association to change to the Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland.
During a time when the Ekka was still young, the main purpose of the agricultural show, as its name suggests, was to show off many agricultural and industrial exhibits. It was a chance for people to show off newly invented agricultural and industrial devices such as ultra modern ploughing, sowing and harvesting artefacts. Cattle and other farm animals were also exhibited during the show, a practice that remains to this day. The Animal Nursery, which has been running since 1964, features around 500 baby farmyard animals for visitors to meet and greet. Since its opening, the show has only been cancelled twice, in 1919 throughout the time of the Spanish flu pandemic, where the grounds were employed as temporary hospital wards for the sick, and in 1942, due to World War II.
The Ekka is held in Queensland's capital city, Brisbane, for 10 days each August at the Brisbane Showgrounds in the suburb of Bowen Hills. The Ekka is run by the Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland (RNA). The Ekka is Brisbane's most popular event of any sort, with around 400,000 visitors attending the show in recent years.
The showgrounds covers an area of 22 hectares.
During Ekka, the Exhibition railway line is operational with special trains (some of them historic steam trains) carrying passengers to the Exhibition railway station in the middle of the Brisbane Showgrounds.
Attractions at the Ekka include fairground rides, a Side Show Alley, animal parades, woodchopping competitions, agricultural displays and equestrian events. The food includes typical fair favourites like Fairy floss, Pluto pups, burgers and hot chips, but it also features award-winning gourmet foods and traditional recipes from the Country Women's Association.
A particular Ekka favourite is the inconic Strawberry Sundae, a fundraising initiative of the Prince Charles Hospital Foundation.
Sideshow Alley in particular has been an integral part of the Ekka. Back in the earlier years of the show, Sideshow Alley was a place for people to witness actual sideshows, such as freaks of nature, people carrying out superhuman feats of strength and illusionists performing for delighted audiences.
Showbags are also an integral part of the Ekka experience. Usually containing food items (such as confectionery and novelty items), showbags are sold in the Showbag Pavilion. The contents of the showbags are tested to ensure they comply with safety standards. In 2015, there were 362 different showbags available for visitors to spend their money on and enjoy samples of products. Showbags range from $1, $2 (the famous Bertie Beetle Bag) and up to $108, providing companies the opportunity to offer their merchandise to the public at discounted prices.
Competitions remain at the heart of the Ekka. Since the very first show in 1876, the Ekka has been rewarding and recognising those dedicated to producing the best of the best. The competitions include agricultural products such as livestock, fruit and vegetables, and skills in areas as diverse as farriery and cake decorating.
The Ekka, due to its large attendance, raises a large amount of revenue. Estimates of this number average around the $100 million mark, yet this amount may fluctuate with weather in Brisbane at the time (a particularly wet August may reduce attendance significantly).
Because of the cultural significance of the Ekka, the city of Brisbane holds a public holiday on the seventh show day which is known as "People's Day". People's Day is usually on the second Wednesday of August except when there are five Wednesdays in August, when it is held on the third Wednesday.
The Ekka is known as Queensland's largest classroom, with schools often organising excursions for students so they can learn about agriculture and the essential role it plays in their lives.