Break out the fairy floss – it's back!
Whether you’re the type to admire the blue ribbon Border Collies and sample Berkshire pork, marvel at marzipan cake decorations or ride the rollercoaster until you’re regretting that second jam donut, no doubt you’re already gearing up for the biggest carnival in the city’s calendar. This year the numbers are staggering: over 3,500 working dogs; 450 baby animals; and ten tonnes of celebrity chefs. In fact, don't even wait for your stomach to rumble before pointing yourself at the Tastes of Victoria Pavilion or pop-up restaurant, the Royal Melbourne Fine Food Deli, the Burch & Purchese Dessert Bar, the Brew Bar & BBQ, the MasterChef Kitchen or the new Victorian Vine and Dine Garden. Go hungry and with your patting hands at the ready, is what we're saying.
But what of the rides?
Meet Chippa Chant - the man who'll be making you scream at the Royal Melbourne Show
Chippa Chant’s ringtone is Willie Nelson’s ‘On the Road Again’. Call it sentiment, call it canny marketing, but it suits the travelling showman’s life down to a T. He’s a third-generation showman, and at 37 has five kids of his own to carry on the tradition. He’ll be bringing the whole clan to the Royal Melbourne Show in September.
“My family has been doing the Royal Melbourne Show since the 1920s,” he says, introducing wife Cassandra and children Lane (15), Claudia (12), Chanel (ten), Cruz (eight) and Rebel (three). They’ll be joined by Chippa’s parents, who are in their seventies – Margery and Les. Chippa’s real name is Les, too, but of course, he’s a chip off the old block.
“Before there were mechanical rides and amusements there were the tent shows,” Chant says of his beginnings in the amusement industry. “My family started with the bush bike balancing act and then they moved onto the motorcycles. My pop built the Wall of Death in Dubbo and my father just had to learn how to ride it with no one teaching him. My aunty Jeanette was the passenger, and my uncle Terry used to ride the rollers out the front as a ‘gee’, to get the crowd interested. My pop was the spruiker, doing all the talk on the mic.”
When Chant left home – wherever home may be – he became a clay target shooter, representing New South Wales five times and Australia twice, then winning the World Junior Championship in 1994. But the road was calling to him and he returned to start his own amusement business. He started off with a few games, such as ‘spear a star’, then a couple of little merry-go-rounds, and now – as one of the biggest amusement owners in the Australian industry – he imports major rides from overseas and tours them around the country. The Chant kids – and any others they travel with – have their own travelling sideshow school built into a massive semitrailer that folds out. It’s fitted out with satellites and they tune in to Dubbo Distance Education.
“My wife also comes from a sideshow family,” he says. “Her grandmother, Emily Maynard, was a trapeze artist and her sister’s now married to the gentleman who runs the Boxing Tent. He’s up in the Northern Territory in Darwin right now. It’s illegal to work in NSW and Victoria because you have to have a doctor and an ambulance on site, but in Queensland and the NT you’re still allowed to work it.”
Of the other 500 or so sideshow families in Australia, many are relations, but almost all of them grew up like family. “People have their disagreements, but they get over it for the business,” he says. “And even when people don’t get along, if someone’s in need, they all come together for help.”
What’s Chippa bringing to the Show?
Forty metres of W.T.F. that’s categorised as “extreme”.
The Rock and Roll
A family ride holding 40, shipped from Italy on two semitrailers.
The Rock Star
Elevates riders 55' above the midway on top of a flying platform.
A dozen children’s rides and two jumping castles.
Games of skill
Thirteen sideshow games. Roll up, suckas!