IAN KIRKWOOD: Revel in Show and tell All the colour abd fun from the Newcastle Show. Pictures: Marina Neil/Peter Stoop/Phil Hearne/Simone De Peak
Shanghai night field

TweetFacebookNewcastle Herald sports writer James Gardiner observed, for ‘‘a fifth straight game the Jets were fiercely competitive’’.

On Saturday, a swell that brought sizeable and picture-perfect waves to every beach on our part of the coast continued to pour in from the ocean depths, as it had on Friday.

And it was still there on Sunday, a great run of surf, even if it was a fortnight too late for Surfest.

Also on Saturday, the Newcastle Knights ran out for the first game of the season, scoring a spine-tingling 24-14 victory over the Warriors, fighting their way back from a 14-6 deficit and doing it with a man in the sin bin for 10 minutes in the second half.

There were 16,000 people cheering the home team on at Hunter Stadium, but I listened to the game through one earphone while negotiating my way with a mate and three children through the Newcastle Show.

Ah, the show!

Beloved by children, and looked at by many of us with a weary and wary eye.

Picture: Simone De Peak

A day out, yes, but once you get sucked into the sideshow alley, you can kiss goodbye to $100 or $150 a child without even blinking.

For those on limited budgets, it’s best to hand over the folding stuff and console yourself that it’s only once a year, and that the smiles on those little, and not-so-little faces are worth the wallet-full of redbacks that it’s cost to put them up on top of whatever ride is now scaring the daylights out of them.

As the word itself suggests, the ‘‘sideshow’’ started out on the ‘‘side’’ of the ‘‘show’’. An addition to the main attraction, in other words.

But the way the Newcastle Show is nowadays – and I am pretty certain it’s the same with a lot of regional shows – the ‘‘sideshow’’ appears to be the main game, especially if the weight of numbers is any indication.

All up, show organisers expect the three days of good weather this year will have brought more than 50,000 people through the gates, an increase of about 30per cent on the 35,000 of last year and 2013.

I was there from mid-afternoon until 9.30pm on Saturday and through all of that time, the crowds were much thicker over on the amusements side of the showground than they were over on the traditional side, where the goats and the chickens and the horses were doing their thing.

The main animal sheds were shut on Saturday afternoon – the cattle exhibitor had to cancel, as I later learnt – and I left with the feeling that the agricultural and industrial part of the Newcastle Show was on a noticeable decline.

So I went back on Sunday to talk to Newcastle Show Association president Roger Geary and his dedicated – and mostly volunteer – band of helpers, who told me that, yes, it was a battle, but a battle they were determined to win. It’s definitely a show of two worlds, financially.

While $20 and $50 notes disappear hand over fist on rides and amusements, those showing their goats and ponies are doing so for a love of the game, and for precious competition points to gain entry to the Royal Easter Show.

To make the most of the show, I would definitely recommend picking up a program. I was too distracted by the pull of three nine-year-olds dragging us relentlessly towards the rides and the sugar, and when I did finally drag the group over to the show ring, it was a bit hard for an untutored novice to know what was going on.

But I know one thing. I’m glad we stayed for the fireworks. In January I had a whinge about Newcastle’s New Year’s Eve fireworks, which, for most of the crowd, were like distant paintings on a near-silent sky.

Not so at the show. Let loose on Friday and Saturday nights from the centre of the show ring, it was an explosive rain of explosion and colour, the air thick and grey with the sulphurous reek of gunpowder.

As the kids said on the way home: Best fireworks ever!