Home Australia What is it like being a showie, travelling around Australia?

What is it like being a showie, travelling around Australia?

What is it like being a showie, travelling around Australia?

According to the Showman’s Guild of Australia, there are extra than 700 agricultural reveals held each year in Australia.

Key ingredients:

  • Of us who appreciate and operate rides in sideshow alley are recognized as ‘showmen’ or ‘showies’, never ‘carnies’
  • There are extra than 700 agricultural reveals held each year in Australia
  • Up to 400 display families travel around, following the display circuit

The guild has extra than 1,000 members who, collectively, appreciate in far extra than 300 major rides, nearly 600 kid’s rides as well as amusements, games and food stalls.

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These who appreciate and operate the rides in sideshow alleys are recognized as “showmen” or “showies” — but never “carnies”, a derogatory American duration of time.

It is estimated that showies pump extra than $1 billion a year into the rural communities they visit across Australia.

Dagwood Canine guy

Jessie McDonald is a fifth-generation showie whose family started working amusements back in 1917.

“Back then it was horse and carts and kerosene lamps,” Mr McDonald said.

“Then it was done on the trains and railways. Now we have automobiles and caravans.”

Mr McDonald said he cherished his job and that it was extra about the way of life than the work: “What diversified job allows you to travel to Far North Queensland in the guts of cold weather?”

“We apply the solar. We are in North Queensland in the cold weather and in summer time head back down south.”

Jesse McDonald holding a dagwood dog covered in sauce

Jesse McDonald — aka the Dagwood Canine guy — spends up to 10 months on the display circuit.(

Supplied: Alicia McDonald


Although Mr McDonald has a dwelling in Brisbane, he spends between up to 10 months a year on the road.

“Every family is diversified, as we are all individual companies,” he said.

“Some diversified families exhaust shut to 12 months of the year on the road.

“Our caravans are like apartments. You have all the luxuries that you may have in a dwelling.

“For the duration of lockdown I was caught in my dwelling and, after a while I started thinking, ‘Gee, I miss the caravan.'”

Mr McDonald is recognized as ‘The Dagwood Canine Guy’ after last year’s COVID-19 lockdowns 

Although Dagwood Canine can now be supplied at fish and chip shops and service stations, Mr McDonald said that these were no longer the same as display canine.

“A suitable Dagwood Canine is made with contemporary batter, a contemporary frankfurt and given straight to the general public,” he said.

“The ones in the shop are made by a wholesaler.”

At respectable-sized agricultural reveals, there can be extra than 500 showies, drag operators and staff who are living beside the display, which can finish up wanting like its appreciate mini town with its appreciate café and faculty.

“Nowadays our adolescents have the possibility of either going to university, working in the family trade or doing whatever they acquire.

“After I was rising up, I was already working for my parents by the time I was 10 years archaic.

“I may well like discover the family trade proceed but, if they want to leave and change into a doctor, I may no longer finish them.”

Jesse McDonald with his wife and children out front of his Dagwood Dog van

Jesse McDonald with his family on the display circuit(

Supplied Alicia McDonald


Broad-time drag operator

Jamie Pickett is another long-duration of time showie whose grandfather started promoting soft toys to diversified traveling showies.

“It’s a family trade and, at some level of faculty holidays, we would wait on my parents,” Mr Pickett said.

“After I left faculty, I started my appreciate sideshow games and slowly, over the years, you develop your trade up and now I have a few of the supreme rides in Australia.”

Even handed one of Mr Pickett’s rides is The Beast, which weighs 80 tonnes and wants three trailers for transporting, taking extra than eight hours to erect.

“This is the supreme pendulum drag in Australia,” he said.

“It swings 45 metres into the air and the customers will pull about 3g mid-drag, but when it will get to the finish it offers you a sense of weightlessness.”

Jamie Picket standing underneath a giant mechanical pendulum ride

Jamie Pickett at his drag, The Beast, which he says is the supreme pendulum drag in Australia.(

ABC Far North: Phil Brandel


Mr Pickett said the display circuit was in his blood.

“My parents showed me how you can work hard and how you can earn a living,” he said.

“I develop no longer have to attain this, but I absolutely admire it.

“When all the younger individuals are with us, it can catch a bit cosy in the van, but we catch to visit a few of the nicest places in Australia as a family.”

In 2020, a woman was injured in Cairns after she fell 30m from a drag. It’s one thing Mr Pickett said was almost unheard of in amusement drag circles.

“The legislation states that we have to have an self sustaining engineer watch our rides at least once a year,” he said.

“With our rides, we can have up to four inspections a year and, earlier than operating, each drag has a maintenance agenda that we have to adhere to.

“On top of that, we have our COVID plan, which means each drag will get a deep clean, so they are safe and clean when individuals drag,” he said.

Showbags galore

Gordon Richards from the Showbag Warehouse has been promoting the themed bags for extra than 45 years.

“I started after they were aloof sample bags. I started travelling, cherished the way of life and stayed at it.

“As soon as it’s to your blood, you stay at it and retain doing it.

“I am 70 years archaic now and aloof travelling and working. It keeps me younger.”

Gordon and Kelly standing out front of the warehouse trailer with a number of showbags in their hands

Gordon Richards and Kelly McBride from Showbag Warehouse at the 2021 Cairns display. (

ABC Far North: Phil Brandel


Mr Richards said he was with the primary company to place out novelty showbags.

“The primary novelty showbags were Micky Mouse, Spiderman and Marvel Woman and we aloof sell those same characters today,” he said.

Over the past 45 years, Mr Richards has viewed a lot of fads approach and hump

“A few of our supreme promoting showbags were the Ninja Turtles, Alf and Frozen, which aloof continues to sell well,” he said.

Although Mr Richards’ family grew up on the road, they are now all shifting away from the display circuit.

“My son says I labored him too hard when he was younger,” Mr Richards said.

“I may well like my son to take over the trade after I retire, but I understand why he would no longer want to.”

What is it like being a showie, travelling around Australia?