8-19 April 2022

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Ribbons of pride

Posted on : 28 March 2016

Written by: Vicki Hastrich

"You win a Royal ribbon you are up a grade, you are accepted then by the general show people, 'Oh yes he's good enough to win a ribbon in Sydney Show.' Then you start winning a bigger one like your first prizes... and you pick a broad ribbon up and oh you’ve made it and so you’re in the business."

When the late Phillip Carter, RAS Councillor and veteran exhibitor, used to talk about ribbons his voice would crackle with pride. As winner of nearly a thousand, including two hundred championships, he knew a bit about the subject.

As a symbol of achievement they pack a lot of power. A banner of respect earned for hard work, patience, skill, and the accumulated experience of years.

Since 1869 and quite possibly before, the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW (RAS) has awarded strips of fabric denoting first, second or third prize winners. The RAS Heritage Centre holds a large collection dating back to 1911. Some are homely - coarse felts with crude lettering - while others, silks with gold thread embroidery and heavy fringes, richly declare their importance. Some bear the splash marks of champagne, some the dirt of the ring.

Competition at the Sydney Royal Easter Show now occurs on such a grand scale that around 17,000 ribbons are awarded annually. Of course, it's not just the top place getters who receive them. Since the 1990s sashes in brown, beige, pink, orange and lime green have been issued to encourage those placed sixth to tenth. But the envy of all remains the broad ribbon. Given only to champions, the red, white and blue striped silk is the Holy Grail. For commercial producers it can boost fortunes.

But as a record of striving, Phillip Carter was proud of all of his awards. "It's a Royal ribbon," he used to say. "That's what counts."

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