The Ekka! It’s the annual agricultural show of Queensland, Australia, held at the Brisbane Showgrounds. Though the formal name is actually the Royal Queensland Show, most people refer to the 10 day event by it’s popular contraction of the word ‘Exhibition’. The Ekka is on every year during the second week of August and runs for ten days including two weekends. The busiest day is often the Wednesday, when the whole of Brisbane has a public holiday.
What to See at the Ekka
Once have your entry ticket and collected your map, get your bearings as there are various starting points because there are lots of entrances.
1. Enjoy your visit
A few practical tips before we start:
- The humidity may be lower that you’re used to, so drink plenty
- Take your water bottle with you
- Get Drinking tap water refills at several sites around the Showgrounds
- Toilets are located in most buildings around the Showgrounds
- Costs add up fast if you have a few people to feed
- You can have a picnic on one of the grassy spots or in the grandstands
- Free tastes are available at the Woolworths Fresh Food Pavilion
- There’s lots of food available for purchase
- The CWA cafe under the Main grandstand has good coffee and freshly made sandwiches, scones and cakes.
- The iconic food to try is the ‘Dagwood Dog’ – you will either love it. Or Not.
- The Royal Queensland Steakhouse – is the only full restaurant on-site, booking is advisable.
Buy tickets online
- Save yourself the hassle – queues can be long at certain times, on certain days
Plan your visit
- Get a map at the entry
- You won’t see everything in one day so identify what you want to see
- The grandstands are a good place to rest as you watch the Ring events – most are free.
- Ring events happen through the day, with special shows at lunchtime and from 6pm.
Lots of activities are free
- All of the competition halls have free entry,
- The events in the Main Arena are free
- EkkaNITES is free as well
There are lockers
- You don’t need to carry everything as there are paid lockers are available at various locations
- Some are under the John MacDonald stand. You can also get wheelchairs here
- The Showbag Pavilion also has a bank of lockers outside.
Use public transport
There are four main ways to check out the animals
- In the show ring for judging (it’s huge, so you won’t get close up)
- In the animal stalls
- During the Grand Parade on People’s Day, Wednesday
- Or you can head over to Animal Boulevard
Most of the ‘big’ animals have their own separate accommodation pavilions. These include working and show horses, sheep and alpacas. The poultry also have their own space in the new CRT Pavilion, along with the cattle and dairy goats. They’re divided according to the type of animals – i.e. all the Brahman cattle will be in the same part of the shed. To find the animals you want to see, select from the list and their location will be shown, along with the best time to visit.
Please note – most of the animals are cared for by their owners, who ‘live-in’ with them for the duration of the Ekka. If they’re not busy, stop for a chat, country people always like a chat and they’ll be really pleased if you ask about the ribbons proudly displayed on the wall. That means they’ve had a win.
Cute and cuddly animals and some big ones too, are included under ‘Animal Adventures‘. You can pat a pig, cradle a chick or pat a cat. All the animal pavilions are fairly close to the main show ring, but not necessarily linked.
Learn about life on the land and how food is produced at the Agricultural Hall, an educational feature designed for kids, with plenty for the grown-ups as well. Country people don’t just produce our food. They have plenty of other skills as well and there are competitions where they can put these to the test.
Check out fine arts and photography, ceramics and beautifully decorated cakes as well as cooked caked, jam and preserves. Find the ones you’re looking for listed under Displays.
4. Sideshow Alley
You absolutely must not miss Sideshow Alley. Actually you can’t miss it. It’s in the north west corner of the grounds. Head from the main ring by the tunnel under the railway line. It’s loud and crowded, especially at night and on People’s day, but there are lots of rides to try, ice creams to eat and teddy bears to win.
5. Food & Fresh produce
Queensland has a climate that covers hot/cold/wet/dry and the produce reflects this wide range of climate variations. Go along to the Agricultural Hall to check out the displays of champion fruit and vegetables (including the giant ones). You can also find out about honey production and Apiculture.
If you’d like to do the taste test on the foods and wines from Queensland, the Woolworths Fresh Food Pavilion is the place to go. There are lots of stalls to purchase your favourites to take home.
One of the most popular spots at the Ekka. This is the place for you to overload on chocs and sweets, usually bundled with a toy or something similarly useful. If you’re not into sweet stuff, you might like the cartoon or movie themed bags, ot the ones sponsored by magazines, aimed at the female audience. Choose carefully, to make sure you get the best value for your buck!
Every night in the main ring, the show starts at 6pm, with harness racing and fireworks, before the main show featuring colour, noise and something to keep you on the edge of your seat. Like the early fireworks, the show finishes with a big bang.
8. The Ring Things
It can get pretty hot/cold/wet depending on the weather so come prepared for anything. There’s plenty of free covered and open seating to enjoy watching the various events. All the large animal judging takes place in the main ring, so you can enjoy watching the show horses, jumping and all the various types of beef and dairy cattle.
Every day at lunchtime, there’s a special show, which varies from year to year. Good to enjoy as you munch your lunch.
Woodchopping is a very popular event and even has its own ring, close to the Showbag Pavilion. It’s a competition of skill that harks back to the early days of European settlement when trees were chopped down to build homes and fences. The events programme is listed under Displays.
Gardening enthusiasts should head off to the Old Queensland Museum, This heritage listed building is worth visiting for all the beautiful displays, as well as a few surprises – live performances and stalls to pick up gardening supplies and plants.
10. The People
The people of Queensland make the show. They contribute with their energy and attendance and take part in the various events and competitions. Have a chat to people who aren’t too busy and congratulate those who took part. They all have great stories to tell and are happy to share.
Another good place to meet people is at the CWA Cafe. Run by volunteers, the cafe raises money for various projects for rural communities. The CWA (Country Women’s Association), has long provided support by and for rural women. They’re famous for their cooking and other skills in family supporting activities.
Enjoy the Ekka!