BELL’S Amusements proprietor Elwin Bell is easy to talk to, yet hard to interview.
The problem is that the stories he tells so engross you, you forget to keep your pen moving.
As patriarch of arguably Batemans Bay’s oldest summer attraction (beside the water), Mr Bell has seen the carnival and Batemans Bay grow in tandem, and he’s come to realise a thing or two about the place.
“People don’t change, really. They only get older,” Mr Bell said.
Rides have become faster and more daring, but Mr Bell said the smiles of people as they get on and off them haven’t changed.
Young children start on the gentle kid’s rides, and as they age and grow taller they aspire to experience the big rides.
“You’ve got that every year until they’re in their 20s and start having their own kids. You’ve got a new generation every year,” Mr Bell said.
The carnival follows a well-trodden path around Australia once it leaves Batemans Bay, but it does split in pieces to cover more corners of the map.
“Once we finish here, we run along the South Coast for a month,” Mr Bell said.
Then it’s on to the Canberra Royal Show, the Sydney Easter Show, followed by dates in western Queensland.
Mr Bell finds himself in Alice Springs every July, then at the Mount Isa Rodeo, then throughout regional New South Wales, in Adelaide and Melbourne in September for their respective royal shows.
“We’re established. My dad’s been doing those shows since the ‘20s. We’ve been going to Darwin for 50 years,” Mr Bell said.
Despite rising transportation costs, and daily challenges, Mr Bell believes being a showman is easier than ever before.
He recounted stories of his parents travelling a dirt Hume Highway and rebuilding an old truck engine five times just so it could scale the Clyde Mountain.
Now, the whole carnival can travel up to 600 kilometres a day.
“When we’re pulling in long distances, it costs about $5000 a fill-up. That’s doing a full day’s run.”
Each night at Corrigans Beach, the carnival uses between 400 and 500 litres of fuel.
“Nothing gets cheaper,” Mr Bell said.
“But a bottle of water is dearer than a bottle of fuel, so I don’t think they can complain.”
Across the road, Mr Bell has noticed that the Taliva complex is soon to be replaced.
“This town is constantly changing. I remember when that went up; that wasn’t all that long ago. Now they’re going to pull it down and do it again,” he said.
Patrons at the carnival this year have been mainly well-behaved families, who have enjoyed good weather, Mr Bell said.
“It’s been good for them. Prior to Christmas it was only just. But since Boxing Day, it’s been pretty good.”