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Monday, August 8, 2011

Ekka, Big Pineapple and helping tourists - Bmag August 9th 2011

Calls to move Ekka

August in Brisbane means one thing – the Royal Queensland Show or Ekka. But every year there are calls to move the Ekka to October. The arguments go something like this... At the moment, the show circuit ends in September (Noosa and Gold Coast). Instead, the circuit should build towards a big finalé in Brisbane. Secondly, there are no public holidays in the months leading up to Christmas. NSW, South Australia and the ACT have Labour Day in October. Victoria has Melbourne Cup Day. Western Australia celebrates the Queen’s Birthday in November. In Queensland, we have nothing. The third and most obvious reason for moving the Ekka is that Brisbane’s peak flu season (the middle weeks of August, according to the Australian Medical Association) coincides with our annual exposure to the Ekka masses.

But really, can you imagine the Ekka in October? By then, says Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Tony Auden, the westerlies have gone and been replaced by “northeast storm days and southeast shower days”. In other words, we would miss out on all these beautiful fine sunny days. Sure, it wouldn’t be so bitterly cold sitting in the stands at night, but to borrow from the movie The Castle, you would change the whole “vibe” of the Ekka. The first Brisbane Exhibition opened on 22 August 1876. This year’s runs from the 11 to 20 August. Should it be moved to October? What do you think? Email me at the address at right.

Can the Big P be saved?

Late last month, a television newsreader caught my attention with the headline: “An Australian tourist icon has been named a terrorist threat”. Here’s how much of a parochial Queenslander I am: I automatically thought she was talking about the Big Pineapple! She wasn’t. She was talking about the Sydney Opera House but what does it say about me that, of all our beloved Australian icons and attractions, my brain would go straight to the Big Pineapple? That may be because my late stepfather Ed Devenport was the architect who designed it back in 1971. But more than that, it’s because going up the pineapple, riding the nut-mobile and enjoying one of those famous ice-cream sundaes, are among my first and favourite memories of Queensland in the late ’70s.

Kerry Brown, author of soon-to-be-released history of the Big Pineapple Our Sweetest Icon, also remembers the Big Pineapple in its heyday: “Every child would go home and plant a pineapple,” she writes. Sadly, as disappointed tourists discover for themselves every day, the Big Pineapple – which should be celebrating its 40th birthday on 15 August – went into receivership in 2009 and has been closed since October last year.

In Kerry Brown’s words, it’s in “a dreadful, tragic, deplorable state of disrepair”. So you can imagine Kerry’s joy, and mine, when it was recently announced that the property will soon have new owners. I’m told the as-yetunnamed investors also have fond childhood memories of the Big Pineapple. They want to reinvent agri-tourism for the 21st century. What a sweet 40th birthday present! But can they make it work?

Help for tourists

Last issue, I asked you what we can all do to make things smoother and more enjoyable for tourists visiting Brisbane. Wendy Davison, reading bmag whilst holidaying in Brisbane, emailed: “As bus travellers, we were unsure when to expect our stop. There was no map inside the bus, as is usual in other cities. It would be very easy to have signs indicating the next stop.”

Ron Nankervis wrote: “When I arrive back into Brisbane, I am amazed that tourists whose first language is not English struggle to fill out the Immigration Entry Card. If only this card was printed in various languages.”

Patty Beecham told me she and her husband were caught in soaking rain in Hong Kong and had tried for 45 minutes to hail a taxi “when someone came up to us and spoke English, asking us where we wanted to go. Thank goodness!” She says she’ll never drive past another tourist in Brisbane again without offering to help them.

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