If you thought all you could pick up at the Ekka was a Bertie Beetle showbag, a strawberry sundae and a cold, these loved-up, long-term couples have news for you.

Key points:

  • While this year’s Ekka has been cancelled, there are those who have especially fond memories of past Royal Queensland Shows
  • Among them are three couples who spoke to ABC Radio Brisbane this week
  • They each recalled how the Ekka had brought them together, decades ago

The Royal Queensland Show — or Ekka as it is more widely known — is well known for its cattle, cake competitions and carnival rides, but the role the show and public holiday have played in pairing up punters is less well-known.

To mark what would have been the final day of Ekka 2021 — cancelled for a second year due to COVID-19 — here are some of the love stories that were shared with ABC Radio Brisbane

‘This man’s a keeper’

As a self-described “country girl from western Queensland”, Kerrie Pain always circled the Ekka in her calendar.

“I got involved in wool and merino products … and I would always come down and have a stand in the wool pavilion and, eventually, got involved in running the wool parade.”

On a Friday evening in 2001, the last night of the exhibition at the Stockmen’s Bar, Kerrie met a blue-eyed country boy called Malcolm Pain, a beef and grain farmer from Jandawoe, north of Dalby.

A couple stand under a neon sign that reads

Kerrie said the Ekka remained a great excuse for the couple to catch up with old friends.(

Supplied: Kerrie Pain

)

“I was chatting with some friends … sitting under this heater and I met this amazing man,” Kerrie said.

“I can still remember his amazing, blue eyes. He would hate me saying this. 

“And I still remember we were walking past the flying pigs — the pigs that would jump off the diving board into the water — and he casually slipped his arm around my shoulder and I think that was it. 

“He’s now my husband.”

A couple on their wedding today.

Kerrie and Malcolm Pain married in 2002, a year after they met at the Ekka’s Stockmen’s Bar.(

Supplied: Kerrie Pain

)

The couple now lives in Redland Bay. 

“Instead of threading-up hay bales, he now threads-up sewing machines and runs our production in our factory,” Kerrie said.

‘We sort of said g’day’

George and Rosemary Dale, now both in their 80s, met at the Ekka, but love didn’t blossom until much later. 

“I was working at the Methodist young people’s department stall that they had at the exhibition. I think the year was 1953,” George said.

“Late in the afternoon, this young lady came along in a nurse’s uniform.

“She was working at the Saint Helen’s Hospital [now the Wesley Hospital] in South Brisbane, which was the Methodist hospital, and we sort of said ‘g’day’.

“I thought, ‘That’s interesting, a nurse that’s just been flat out and she’s come out to get some time [volunteering] here’.”

A black and white photo from 1957 of a young couple of their wedding day.

George and Rosemary Dale were married at the Methodist Church on Albert Street on August 10, 1957.(

Supplied: George and Rosemary Dale

)

But it would be another 12 months before they met again, at a young people’s hostel in Bellevue, where George was doing part-time work.

“So we were painting fences and my wife tells the story that I poked my nose through the fence and she painted my nose,” George said.

“I tell the story that I was on [my] side and she put [her brush] through and painted my nose. 

A few years later, George was completing his national service and based at Southport on the Gold Coast.

“So I contacted her and said, ‘I’m a lonely soldier, can I come and call on you?’, which I did,” he said. 

“And on the 10th of August, 1957, we were married at the Methodist Church in Albert Street.”

The pair — who just celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary on Wednesday — are now happily retired in Hervey Bay.

Escaping crowds on ‘Exhibition Wednesday’

In 1961, almost exactly four years after George and Rosemary wed, and outside the very same church on Albert Street, Joyce Roberts met Graham Jorgensen. 

“We are celebrating 60 years on this Exhibition Wednesday … since we met.” Joyce, 80, said.

Joyce and husband Graham, 87, met in the city before they and a couple of mutual friends crammed into his car and headed — not to the Ekka — but to a beach on the Gold Coast to avoid the crowds.

An elderly couple sit together for a portrait in a garden.

Joyce and Graham Jorgensen met on the exhibition holiday 60 years ago.(

Supplied: Joyce Jorgensen

)

“We headed down the Gold Coast and did lots of swimming,” Joyce said.

“[On the drive home] we stopped and bought takeaway Chinese to eat, and that’s been the celebratory meal ever since on Exhibition Wednesdays.

“When he did ring and my sister answered the phone, she came and said, ‘There’s a very deep voice on the phone for you.'”

Six decades later the couple are settled in the rural Queensland town of Mareeba. 

“He’s very caring and very thoughtful and I couldn’t wish for a better husband,” Joyce said.

When asked to share one thing that was special about her husband, who Joyce describes as a romantic, she said “I would take up too much of your time”.

Posted , updated 

Flying pigs, flirting through fences, avoiding crowds: Love stories that started with the Ekka
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