Birds are hurling themselves at each other in a frantic ritual of procreation. The jasmine is erupting in voluptuous wafts of heady scent, sending out trailers of greenery to grasp at every surface. Fish eagles drift overhead, taunting the resident force of crows who scramble the squadron to intercept the intruder. Doves coo and posture along tree branches, then make messy nests after the courtship deal is sealed. And the watsonias are painting impressionist splashes across the almost-alpine fields of the high Outeniquas.
It’s springtime in the Garden Route.
And that means there are Events.
School fairs and fêtes abound. The stadium fills with supporters and players from local rugby clubs playing in the district finals. A venison festival at the moederkerk along the main street. And then there’s the main event: the town’s annual agricultural show.
Tractors and diggers on show—full-blast yellow outlined against the cobalt sky.
The funfair emits shrieks from momentarily-terrified riders on bright-painted, land-based rocket ships and contraptions.
Sweating horses strut, prance, and canter their way through fancy-dress parades, buggy displays, and paired parades.
Placid cows turn their backs to passing viewers while munching at hay in their stalls, a pair of calves gaze in wide-eyed shyness at peering faces.
Teenagers adrift, scenting out potential partners, their hair sculpted to razor-edge perfection, clothes clinging to pulled-in tummies.
Moms barging through with triangle-wheeled prams, dads clutching their toddlers by the hand or imprisoning them on shoulders high above the crowd.
A crew of hooded boys hip-hop past with an enormous home-made boom box, eyes seeking out the approval of friends and rivals.
Barefoot children scamper and scuttle around the periphery of events arenas, ogling the strongmen hefting tractor tyres, staring at the tug-of-war contests that have brought participants from as far away as Zimbabwe and Limpopo. Women’s teams, men’s teams, mixed-gender teams, police teams, school teams, university teams, national teams. Mud, straw, shredded grass, boundary tape snapping at onlookers, makeshift kidney belts to prevent strain. Dreadlocks, floppy-fringed combover shaved heads, perspiration, anticipation, cheers (but no jeers).
And never forget the edibles. Every food group is represented, in fried form, of course. A vast beer tent. Cheese and wine in another tent—but they have run out of glasses so you’re forced to buy a whole bottle to take home. Ice cream vans have queues a few dozen people in length. Biltong, steak, droë wors, chicken, chip-n-dip, and the ever-present Garden Route speciality…calamari-and-chips. Oh, and there’s even a taco truck, labelling itself “Mexican street food”.
Market stalls with the ubiquitous ‘karoo crafts’ made of distressed wood, MDF board, pastel paints, sporting windmill stamps or insignia. Stalls with wicked knives, bottled ‘spring’ water, sweets and chocolates that can send you straight to a diabetic afterlife, fly-by-night ‘education’ courses, massage chairs and devices that supposedly shake away your fat or your aches and pains—after you’ve consumed all the food groups on offer.
And at the end of the day, everyone is generally tired and happy, full of food and drink, loaded with things they don’t really need (but bought anyway), and coated with dust, bits of straw, and the unique ‘perfume’ of an agricultural show.
All photographs in this post are copyright to the author.