We have Christmas off, we have a few weeks off,” Ms Calder said.The appeal of running a stall lies in the unique, gypsy lifestyle.Every year Ms Calder and her family drive their exhibit from town to town to as far as Cairns.Although she has a permanent home in Broadford in central Victoria, Ms Calder does not like to settle in the one place for too long.”Every show area is like going into a little town. Burgeoning drug problemShe has seen teenagers trying to cheat, boyfriends trying to impress girlfriends and countless toddler meltdowns. The Victorian Showmen’s Guild is the representative body for show stallholders. Some are related, some are not. “You can pick them a mile away,” she said.After more than half a century of touring, she has become a seasoned observer of people and has witnessed the devastating effects of a burgeoning drug culture in many regional towns .”The drug situation in all the towns, it really makes me upset. We all know each other. The guild has 350 members and services 100 agricultural shows.Ms Calder has owned her set of fibre glass clowns for more 40 years. “Children often have a better chance at winning a game because they don’t over think it,” she said.”I’ve seen more little kids get it than adults. They get in a rut of what they’re doing, and it’s the right timing.”
The stuffed toy is one one of the most popular prizes in sideshow alley. (ABC Gippsland: Rachael Lucas)
Over the years Ms Calder has witnessed all types of people try their luck with the clowns, from young crying children that do not want to leave the game, to groups of 80-year-old ladies reminiscing about their childhoods. Surprisingly they rarely break down, although she provides cosmetic maintenance from time to time, hand painting their facial features.”Anything that’s done by hand has quirks, they all look a little bit different,” she said.She said the trick to winning a prize with the clowns was in the timing. “We have all generations who do the agricultural shows, right down to little babies,” she said.”It’s completely different to circus life or anything like that. It makes you a bit sad. They should stop playing video games and go out yabbying and catching butterflies.” It is ruining towns and ruining the kids. We get new ones in, old ones go out.”Ms Calder and her family live out of a large caravan while on the road. The van, which is parked behind the stall, is set up with an annex sheltering a clothesline of the family’s washing.All in the timingThe family is touring Victoria’s agricultural shows and are presently in Maffra, east Gippsland.
A Big Country: Laughing clowns still a show favourite
By Rachael Lucas
November 02, 2017 11:16:41
Stallholder Annette Calder with her clowns at the Maffra Show in Gippsland, in Victoria’s east. (ABC Gippsland: Rachael Lucas)
It means it’s show time.”Sideshow stall holding is often a long-held, multi-generational family affair with many stallholders being related. I’ve done shows since the day dot,” Ms Calder said. The Calder family make a modest living from the clowns, but Ms Calder insists that the operation is more of a hobby than a business. Photo:
Laughing clowns are a key feature of any sideshow alley at a country show. (Supplied: Lyndal Turner Guy) My mother and father used to do it, and my grandmother and grandfather used to do it. “It’s the kids’ faces, they light up when they see the clowns. Annette Calder is a third generation ‘showie’ who has been travelling with her laughing clowns for the past 57 years.Her family is part of a tight travelling community of stallholders that belong to the Victorian Showmen’s Guild, supplying sideshow alley entertainment to agricultural shows across the state.”I was born in the business.