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8

| BNE July/August 2016

FEATURE

Osborne Showtime and travelling the circuit of

agricultural shows from Cairns to Brisbane and

beyond. Osborne also does the shows in Sydney,

Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth and in country

NSW, keeping him on the road for 10 months of

the year – and he’s not alone.

Osborne estimates there are about 450

families across Australia, who are members of the

Showmen’s Guild of Australasia, making a similar

trek. Counting everyone connected with those

groups there are as many as 4000 people travelling

in convoys across the country. Surprisingly, they

are travelling only about 15-40,000km a year

as most have mapped out their show dates and

routes to avoid a lot of back tracking – but that

doesn’t mean that some family operators aren’t

making more than one trip. Osborne says some

of the smaller operators driving their own vehicles

may go back distances of 100-200km to pick

up another load. Osborne often travels with a

40-foot caravan and both he and his wife drive

semi-trailers.

He will be bringing two of his most popular

amusements to Ekka in August this year – the

Haunted Dark Ride and 9D Cinema, two ‘rides’

he rarely leaves behind. The 9D cinema takes the

3D experience up a notch where the viewer really

feels the sensation of what’s happening on the

screen in front of them – that may mean a snow

fall, wind, rain or whatever is part of the scene

they are watching.

Seeing the smiles and hearing the chuckles

of people as they come off a ride is what makes

Osborne’s day. He also loves the travelling life.

“It’s a wonderful lifestyle. It can be hard at times,

particularly when the weather turns nasty but

the show must go on! We’ve got friends in towns

scattered across the country,” he says. “It’s really a

journey and an education.” There’s plenty to learn

at the showgrounds but leaving his children in

Brisbane when they were young so they could go

to school was particularly tough, says Osborne.

Times have changed, though, and now children

up to year 7 have the option of attending the

National School for Travelling Show Children, a

mobile classroom that travels the show circuit.

Osborne’s son, now 25, has also joined the

family business and sometimes takes rides in a

different direction, travelling with his fiancée who

is also from a show family, or joining his Dad

for the bigger shows. During Ekka they will be

staying at a nearby caravan park while Osborne

L

ew Osborne is a fifth generation

showman and his wife of almost 40

years is sixth generation. Back when

her great great grandfather was in the business the

sideshows were things like handwriting analysis

and novelty stalls rather than laughing clowns

and shooting galleries. Osborne’s own grandfather

operated the early version of a photo booth which

he carted around from show to show on the back

of a truck. People would have their pictures taken

and Lew’s grandmother would be hiding in the

back with the dishes of liquid to process the strip

of photos while the customers waited out front.

“When I was young we’d go to a lot of country

towns for the shows and people would come up

to my Mum and Dad and tell them they still had

one of those strip photos,” says Osborne. Those

were the days when men wore a suit to the show,

he recalls, and ‘stars’ of the show were Samson the

Strongman and Big Chief Little Wolf, who used

to be a wrestler. The showmen would put their

vehicles on the train and they’d be welcomed at

the stations when they got off with their caravans

and paraphernalia.

Osborne and his family have been based

in Queensland for 30 years operating L&L