Did you know that showbags are an Australian invention? You did not!

Originating at the Sydney Royal Easter Show sometime between 1909 and 1914, possibly by kiddie-favourites Gravox, the bags were originally given away by brands hoping to spruik their wares by providing free samples.

Other companies like Cadbury and Aeroplane Flour (delicious!) joined in, and by 1928, they thought, “Hang on, people seem to be loving these showbags, why not charge money?”, although they probably didn’t think the term “hang on”. The market was flooded by big-name brands Violet Crumble, Weet-Bix, Giant Brand Licorice, and Rosella in the ’40s, Minties, and Lifesavers in the ’50s, and Sunny-Boy in the ’60s. Thankfully, there is no trace of the Weet-Bix showbag at today’s Royal Easter Show.

With 1.2 million people visiting the show in 1947, these showbags became big business. So much so that in 1962, the Royal Agricultural Society “thoroughly investigate[d] the matter of sample bag prices” in order to keep vendors scrupulous. Since then, they’ve become one of the ongoing highlights of everyone’s visit to the show.

But while ripping through 15 Bertie Beetles may be our overriding memory from attending the show as kids, there’s actually a bit more to the show than that these days, funnily enough.  Starting up last year, the original stables are now filled with amazing food, and there are also bars to lounge in if you’ve been on one too many rides. Plus, there’s a heap of free music to party to this year, with local faves like Akuou and YesYou hosting a neon-drenched silent disco.

There’s even a daily puppy parade, with a little trophy ceremony at the end and everything. Throw in a flying trapeze – hanging from a hot air balloon, no less – and all the classic show fare like showbags and rollercoasters, and you’ve got a great day sorted.

Let’s take a trip through time and check out some of the most popular showbags in the history of the Royal Easter Show. We’re focusing on the food-based ones today, as toys, pop-stars, and trends change, but Ruffles chips never die. (NB: Ruffles didn’t make the list, sorry.)

The 2018 Sydney Royal Easter Show will run from Friday March 23 to Tuesday April 3, and this year it’s hosting a neon dance party with some of the city’s best DJs. Check out everything the show has to offer right here.

The SunnyBoy bag

First things first, the Sunny boy is the best-shaped, best-tasting, most iconically-Aussie ice-block of all time.

Here’s an original.

Here’s an esky filled with them, because that’s what eskies are for.

The SunnyBoy swaggered onto the scene in 1964 with a tetrahedral shape and a hyphen in its name. By 1967, the tetra-treat had a presence in the RES showbag tent, with a bag costing 30c.

By 1984, the bag would set you back $2; by 1989, it was $6.00 – the delicious march of commerce.

With the ice-block having been discontinued in 2016 — killing the concept of the Australian summer along with it — these bags have since become priceless.

Here’s a photo of the best-dressed person to have ever attended the show, casually holding a Sunny-boy bag, a Mars bag, a Spiderman bag, and another one, which is being obscured by the kid’s impending diabetes.

The Violet Crumble showbag

Of the two honeycomb-based chocolate bars, I have to admit Crunchie wins for best show bag design, with this bag looking to originate from the early ’80s – based on the He-Man art design, flowing Fabio locks and general ’80s hair-metal look of the guy wailing on a Crunchie-inspired riff.

But Violet Crumble are the O.G.

They are an Australian creation, launching on St. Kilda Road in 1913 and fast becoming a staple back in the days when ads like this were deemed just fine.

Here’s a shot of their first showbag, launched in 1945.

They kept this design for a decade, until someone said, ‘c’mon now’ and they changed it. To this. (Also, don’t give babies licorice, especially not giant licorice.)

By this century, the bag looked a lot like the below pic (or exactly like it, as the case may be) and allowed the cross-contamination of other Nestle treats such as the Kit-Kat, Jaffas, and that old under-rated, often-ignored bench-player, the Golden Rough.

Lifesavers, Beechies, Arnott’s Potato Chips

The ’70s were a wild time. Lifesavers were still king (seriously, when was the last time you bought a pack?), Arnott’s were focusing on the potato game despite having a stranglehold on the biscuit empire, and Beechies was very much the Extra of the era.

The 2UE showbag

To be honest, I have no idea what was in these showbags, but I’m going to guess there was a newspaper, a few radio station stickers, a 30cm ruler emblazoned with the 2UE logo, a few bits of ephemera promoting whatever the station was up to, and possibly a 45 or a flexi-disc. No doubt, it was free. Please email me if you know more.

Fizzer, Hubba Bubba, Warheads

There seems to have been a decades-long trend that if a showbag primarily contains dozens of different flavours of the same general lolly, it will also include an inflatable hammer or weapon or some sort, in order to harness that sugar-rush into some harmless sibling-battering.

The Bertie Beetle

Alright,this is the fan favourite, and with good reason.

Bertie Beetle was originally like Laverne and Shirley from Happy Days, or Frasier from Cheers, merely one part of an ensemble cast in Hoadley’s Chocolate Showbag with the stars of the show: Violet Crumble and Polly Waffle.

This bag debuted at the Easter Show in 1963, but Bertie was clearly the breakout character, and was given his own bag by 1972. Being the ’70s, this new level of fame no doubt went to his little delicious head.

There are six varieties of Bertie Beetle showbags available today; not bad considering the little guy began life as a way to use discarded shards of honeycomb left over from making Violet Crumbles.

BONUS: The Britney Spears and the Dolly showbag

The Britney one was at the 2001 Royal Easter Show, contained a Britney wig a full six years before the head-shaving incident, and can still be purchased on eBay, while the Dolly showbag is the most diverse bag in RES history, containing a hamburger discount coupon, a canned of iced-tea, nail-polish remover, and a diva headband set.

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