By Lauren Ferrone. Images: Liam West
Last updated on: August 15, 2018 at 7:44 am
We chat to Royal Adelaide Show veterans about iconic rides, smart poodles, fluffy scones, the perfect wood chopping swing and all things that go bang.
Takes show-goers for a spin
With the important job of operating some of the most popular and hair-raising rides at the Royal Adelaide Show, it’s probably a good thing Garry Lynch isn’t afraid of heights – or clowns.
The 64-year-old showman’s family has run amusement rides and sideshows at various Royal Shows for four generations, including the iconic laughing clowns (which his dad bought in 1950), the dodgem cars, the Gravitron, Cha Cha and Ali Baba.
The Lynches first got into the carnival business in 1936 when Garry’s grandfather started a stall selling wooden dolls at the Royal Adelaide Show.
Garry’s dad then took over and, at the age of 15, Garry left school to join the business. Now his son Wayne is also involved.
“I started by collecting ticket stubs from show-goers on the rides,” Garry says.
Go for a spin
There are this many rides and sideshows
Now with two 30-foot long caravans to cart his rides, Garry hits the road for six weeks of the year, travelling to shows around Australia. It’s not all fun and games though.
Safety is at the centre of what he does, and before each show, a team of electrical engineers complete a thorough inspection
of the rides.
“There are obviously strict processes we go through before allowing the public on any of the rides, like testing the safety bars and locking devices each morning.”
At the end of a long day at Wayville, it’s all worth it to see the smiles on showgoers’ faces.
And while his two-year-old grandson is too young to hop on the scary rides, he does have a blast on the dodgem cars.
“We get him into one of the cars and shut down the rest so he can have a go,” Garry says.
Seeing his grandson zoom around the track is always a heart-warming sight that reminds Garry of his own days as a young showman.
Trains show dogs
Dogs may be a man’s best friend, but Karen Moralee’s four-legged furry mates are that and so much more – they’re star athletes.
At the age of 17, Karen entered her miniature poodle in the Royal Adelaide Show for the first time.
Nearly three decades later, she’s still training poodles and German Shepherds to become champion show dogs.
This year she’s entering her poodles three-year-old Spaticus (fondly known as Sparky) and almost 13-year-old Kaisias into various categories, including jumping and obedience.
“I first got involved in the show because my neighbour got a dog and I wanted one,” Karen laughs.
“It’s just great socialisation for the dogs and a lot of people probably don’t realise just how much of a sport it is.”
More than this many animals in the pavilion
While some may think of Karen as a ‘dog whisperer’, she says a lot of hard work actually goes into training her canines.
“During the competitions, the dogs work about 25m from their trainers so it’s just amazing to see the pups think for themselves.”
Just like any sport, the pups’ schedule involves strenuous (but fun) exercise like jumping through hoops and over bars, and weaving through obstacles in Karen’s backyard training course in the lead-up to show time.
But preparing for each Royal Show event involves more than just physical strength and mental agility – Spaticus and Kaisias have to look the part.
“I brush them right out, wash them, blow-dry their hair straight and clip them. It can take about four to five hours,” she says.
Post-show pampering isn’t any different for Karen’s precious show poodles who get spoilt rotten.
“I massage them down for up to 10 minutes and, of course, give them a few treats,” she laughs.
Chops wood like a champ
Show-goers probably won’t see veteran woodchopper Mike Fullgrabe climb trees like he used to, but he’s still vying for the title of champion in at least 20 woodchopping categories at this year’s Royal Adelaide Show.
The third generation woodchopper, now 65-years-old, has competed in the Royal Show since he was 13.
“I always remember going to the Royal Show and seeing my father and uncle compete. Seeing them up there was the start of my so-called woodcutting career,” he says.
Age hasn’t stopped him from carrying on the physically demanding family tradition.
“It definitely takes a lot of stamina and strength, and the older you get, the harder it is,” he laughs.
Perfecting an award-winning swing like Mike’s starts early.
“Most of the competitors have actually got something in their blood, with woodcutting handed down from their forbearers,” he says.
“You learn your swing as you grow up. My father taught me how to chop and swing an axe safely. We call it a sport, but it’s more of a hobby.”
And an expensive one at that. Mike says a cheap axe can cost $700.
“I usually take about half a dozen axes to the show, but the timber is supplied,” he says.
After show time, the used wood is donated to the Welland Waste and Recycling Depot to be sold.
But the question we were most keen to know the answer to – how many times has his axe slipped?
“Just twice. One of them was when I was about 16 – I needed 13 stitches on my big toe but thankfully it’s still there,” he laughs.
“I’ve always said you’re not a woodchopper unless you’ve cut yourself at least once.”
Bakes the best show scones
When Kathy Brady entered her scones in a Royal Adelaide Show baking competition at the age of 13, she never expected it’d become a tradition spanning half a century.
“The judges said my scones could’ve easily won the adults category – I’ll always remember that comment,” she laughs.
Now 64-years-old, Kathy spends about four months trialling recipes, before 10 competition-worthy baked goods find their way to the showgrounds for judging.
This year she’s entered the show’s new cookery pentathlon for the chance to be named the best all-round baker.
Her Anzac biscuits, boiled fruit cake, lemon curd and scones are just some of the goodies that’ll be judged. Most of the baked goods are dropped off at 7am the day before the gates open to show-goers.
“That morning I’m in the kitchen baking at 3.30am because you need a lot of the entries to be super fresh,” she says.
As you’d expect after 50 years, the competition’s changed a bit since her first entry.
“We used to run around to see what ribbons we got,” Kathy says.
About this many scones are baked
by the CWA each year
The results are now posted online, but there’s a fair chance you’ll still find her pacing Goyder Pavilion in anticipation of finding a first-prize ribbon next to one of her goodies.
And it seems that friendly competitive streak runs in the family – Kathy’s seven-year-old grandson’s muffins won third prize in the junior class last year.
Kathy also tries her luck in the knitting competitions but admits her needle work is no match for those prized scones.
Ends the show with a bang
Pyrotechnician Mark Petkidis’ adrenaline doesn’t come from the pop and crackle you hear before the first firecracker shoots into the sky.
It’s when thousands of show-goers tilt their heads up in awe.
For the past 17 years, Mark has been the lead pyro behind the Royal Adelaide Show’s spectacular fireworks display, which RAA is proud to sponsor for another year.
The pyrotechnics company he works for – Howard & Sons – has been involved for about 50 years.
The breathtaking light show usually lasts about 10 minutes, but months of planning goes into it ahead of show time.
“We’ve come a long way since handfired fireworks when people would wave a burning stick with a flame,” Mark laughs.
He first meets with the Royal Show to talk themes and music, which will be synchronised with the fireworks.
Like most things these days, the display is created almost entirely on a computer.
“Every firework you see is individually wired into a system and controlled by the computer,” he says.
Round in shape, aerial fireworks (known as stars) are placed in tubes with black ignition powder, and put in a safe spot on the showground’s oval. The balls are then shot out of the tube and into the sky.
There are tiny current-carrying coils inside, which ignite when someone presses a button on a computer.
On the night, Mark usually sits in the grandstand’s control room where all the technical theatrics happen.
And even though he spends a lot of time surrounded by bright lights and loud bangs, he admits he was “never a kid who got a kick out of blowing things up.”
“It’s the buzz I get from entertaining so many people and feeling like I’ve created something,” he says.