It's supposed to be showtime in Parkes, but the rides are silent

NO SHOW: Steve Karaitiana and Anthony Laurie have been travelling to shows and events their whole lives, but now they're off road and Anthony's ride the Techno Jump is sitting idle.
NO SHOW: Steve Karaitiana and Anthony Laurie have been travelling to shows and events their whole lives, but now they're off road and Anthony's ride the Techno Jump is sitting idle.

It would be show time in the Central West any other year - in Parkes this week - but the rides have been sitting idle for more than five months now and it's taking its toll on our showmen.

While a lot of industries have found a COVID-safe way to operate, there's been no such reprieve for many of our showies.

Regional Showman's Guild of Australasia representative Steve Karaitiana, from Forbes, is a third-generation showman who owns rides and food vans.

He's typically full time at events, but that all ground to a halt just as he was prepared to head to Canberra for Skyfire in March this year.

Having no idea when and how things will change as the COVID-19 pandemic continues is tough.

"It's always been non-stop, and now we come to this stand-still," Karaitiana said.

And that in itself is tricky: most showmen are full-time travellers without a property to stop on.

Anthony Laurie is a fifth-generation showman, and his family is currently parked up in Forbes.

He says many showmen are staying on friends' properties or showgrounds where they are allowed.

Forbes isn't a bad place to be, he says, he attended St John's hostel and says a lot of show kids went to school there.

"It's always been a town where we spent a fair bit of time," Laurie said.

"Plus it's a central area, you're not too far from everywhere."

The two men say they're looking to the legacy of their grandparents as they ride out this tough time.

"Our grandfathers got through World War II and the Depression, and they were full-time showmen," Karaitiana said.

They put their trucks to work for the war effort, and "ate everything that came out of the bush".

"When this pandemic hit, a lot of us were able to look back and to think that if our grandfathers did it, there should be no reason why we can't get through it," Karatiana said.

"We have got the luxuries of JobKeeper."

But the lengthy down time will have a long-term impact, and Karatiana says the Showman's Guild is working with the government to appeal for a package to help them get the show back on the road when they can.

Some of their unique challenges are losing their workforce of trained operators to other industries, dealing with rising public liability insurance and trying to keep their trucks registered.

At present they are limited in what they can do - Laurie can't even get the specialist who usually registers his rides to come from interstate to do that.

"Our Guilds are trying to come up with some sort of package - for registration for vehicles like they've done for farmers, and financial assistance to get us back on the road," Karaitiana said.

"Because at present, I don't know how the operators are going to get back on the road."

Some face repayments and GST bills on rides worth millions of dollars that haven't been able to earn money, he explained.

"You can make agreements with your finance but as time goes on that gets tougher," Karatiana said.

The impact of the pandemic has compounded some already tough years for showmen.

The drought affected expenditure on entertainment like shows in the past couple of years, and the Lauries were on the south coast when the devastating bushfires struck over the Christmas break.

When the wave of show cancellations due to fire began, Laurie honestly thought things couldn't get worse.

The duo acknowledge there's been support for show societies and showground improvements, but can't imagine shows without sideshow alley.

Mid-August to mid-September typically sees our local shows roll out from Bedgerabong to Parkes, Forbes and Eugowra.

The grandson of the legendary Roy Bell, Karaitiana has spent his life travelling with the shows and knows well the role that they play in the life of a rural town.

In his grandfather's day it was all about the fashion, the excitement, the family day out.

Showtime was when a little of city life came to the country, as well as showcasing the best of agriculture to the city.

"Shows have been an important part of regional communities and cities ... almost a million people went to Sydney Royal last year," Karaitiana said.

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