I WAS about 15 when I loudly proclaimed “as if you’d be seen dead in an Akubra”.
My family owned a dried fruit property in Koorlong, near Mildura, and I was helping my mum spread grapes onto a rack for drying when the words slipped out of my mouth.
Unfortunately for me, the person who’d prompted the comment, an Akubra-wearing teenage boy who was picking fruit at our property, happened to be standing right behind me.
I was pretty embarrassed at the time – as was he – but little did I know that slip of the tongue would come back to haunt me later in life.
I’m now the butt of many a family joke and chuckle to myself every time I don my own Akubra.
Yes, like the teenage boy I once bagged out for wearing the iconic Aussie hat, I too have embraced the country lifestyle. In fact, I’m an Akubra-wearing, rum-drinking, ute-driving B&S chick.
I went to my first B&S ball – alternatively known as Bachelor and Spinsters, Blokes and Sheilas or even, for cruder folk, Bundy and Sex – a few years back.
A friend of mine was into the B&S scene and she’d been nagging me for months to come to one with her.
“You’ll love it,” she’d say.
But I wasn’t convinced and would reply with my standard response, “No way, B&S balls are for ferals”.
I eventually caved – it was probably when she discovered my soft spot for farmers and suggested I might meet a potential farmer husband – and we were soon on our way to the Longy B&S at Longerenong near Horsham.
I knew I would be forever hooked on B&S balls the moment we drove in. There were rows upon rows of utes with groups of country lads revving their prized possessions – many of them sporting multiple, sky-high aerials, spotlights and even flame kits capable of shooting balls of fire.
There was a band playing and groups of people wandering around drinking rum and wearing Akubras and bluey singlets.
Everyone was super friendly and I soon had a bunch of new best mates. The only caution I was given was, “Don’t tell anyone you’re a B&S virgin”, my friend whispered.
Once the actual ball opened that night, I soon discovered why she’d issued those words of warning. B&S virgins – people who have never been to a B&S before – are targeted with food dye.
Yep, the next morning I rose from my swag looking like a Smurf.
Despite boasting a colourful new look and a killer hangover, I knew I was in love with the B&S scene.
I hadn’t found my potential farmer husband but I had met a nice panel beater from Yarram and I agreed to meet up with him at the Jerilderie Round Up B&S the next month.
I drove nearly seven hours, a 14-hour round trip, to get to that ball – a piece of cake compared to the hours some B&S devotees are prepared to put in. The balls were traditionally developed as a way for country folk to look for love but nowadays they’re more about meeting up with friends and hanging out with like-minded country and country-loving folk.
There’s a B&S ball on every couple of weeks with some people driving days to get to their favourite.
I recently read on a Facebook B&S site about a girl who drove from Western Australia just to attend a Victorian B&S ball. Now that’s dedication.
Most balls are held in small country towns with money raised going back into sporting clubs, towards scholarships and back into the community.
Some of my favourites include the Finley Rice Strippers, Jerilderie Roundup, Birchip Mallee Root Roundup, Stonerollers in Murray Bridge, Longy B&S in Longerenong, Holbrook New Year’s Eve ball, and of course, the Elmore Summer Send Off.
The Elmore Summer Send Off is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, B&S balls in the state and is on again this weekend.
The event will be at the Elmore Event Centre in Rosaia Road today with gates opening at 1pm. Tickets are $120 at the gate. Most B&S balls are preluded with a night of drinking at a pub in a nearby town with the utes rolling into the ball venue just after lunch.
People spend the afternoon drinking in the car park, meeting new people, whip cracking, revving their engines, listening to bands and, at some balls, doing circle work. There’s often activities during the day including wet T-shirt competitions and tighty whity competitions for the boys.
It might sound pretty rough, but B&S balls are just about like-minded country folk having a good time.
People are there to have a good time, not spoil the fun.
I have so many fond memories and plenty of stories to tell about my B&S experiences – the time I got my old car bogged down to the axles, the day I stood in the middle of an arena and let a boy whip an empty rum can out of my hand and not to mention some of the totally awesome people I’ve met and can now call my friends.
So if you’ve got nothing better to do this weekend come and give the B&S scene a try – it’s guaranteed to be an experience you’ll never forget.