Seated ringside at the Ekka have you ever wondered why a horse is measured in hands or what timbers are used in the woodchop – only to have a disembodied voice answer your question?
Ringmaster Rob Gaylard said: “We’re commentators and teachers of the show ring.”
Gaylard became an Ekka ring announcer four years ago after being spotted at the Melbourne Royal Show by the Ekka’s first female ringmaster Jan McMillan.
To the interview question, “How can you change our show?”, Gaylard replied: “I’ve never seen it.”
Announcing at Brisbane’s premier agricultural show was a challenging job with a large variety of competitions and events to announce, Gaylard said.
At the arena’s peak, he explained, six wings (or competitions) occur simultaneously and “everything buzzes and moves like a taxi rank”.
“We try and take what happens on the arena and make it interesting, to take people on a journey.”
As Gaylard estimated 60 to 70 per cent of people in the audience don’t have knowledge about the events, he believed it’s important to answer questions such as ‘What is a hack?’ and ‘What is a hand?’.
“Make sure you know your product, and, when you explain, make sure you explain in simple language. While it’s a serious business for the competitor, let your enjoyment show to the crowd.”
With a lower number of horse entries this year due to the Hendra virus, Gaylard said they’ve focused on more crowd-interaction – with newcomer Scott Whitehouse whipping up audience enthusiasm.
While Whitehouse has over 26 years’ experience in announcing for radio, at Sea World and other events, this was his first time as Ekka’s master of ceremonies.
“This year, they [the Ekka] asked me to come along and add some colour, a bit of light and shade,” Whitehouse said.
He enjoyed the audience interaction and was willing to ask the ‘silly questions’: “When you’re in the show industry, you sometimes forget what other people don’t know. You take things for granted.”
As MC, Whitehouse said: “My main part really kicks in when we come into the night entertainment and we try to rev up the crowd.”
Whitehouse has enjoyed the Ekka experience and working with fellow announcers Rob Gaylard and Tim Dreverman.
As to his favourite events, he said: “So far, I love the show-jumping, but I must admit I love the harness classes where we’ve got the beautiful sulkies, the lorries and the drays out there, because you see the big Clydesdales who were the animals that really helped make the country, pioneer the country, the ploughing, and pulled all the carts.
“The people who own them polish all the finery, the leatherwork, all the silver, it’s all polished to its absolute best, and there’s something traditional about that that’s wonderful.”
This article was first published at CitizenJ Australia.