A true showman

EVEN at 70 years of age, show ride owner and operator Elwin Bell continues to travel all over Australia to bring the thrills and spills to the humble country show."Showmen don't retire," he said emphatically.

Instead, Mr Bell, his wife Sandra and their mini-poodle Bubba spend most of their time on the road darting from town to town. They attend more than 50 shows annually and this weekend they'll be back at home operating the rides at The Queanbeyan Show.

"We're constantly moving, we don't spend much time at home at all," Mr Bell said. 

"Sometimes we'll do two shows a week - one mid-week and the other on the weekend."

In one year, Bell's Amusement Hire will travel to the Sydney and Melbourne Royal Shows, Roma, Emerald, Normanton, Mount Isa, Alice Springs, Katherine, Darwin, Riverina/Central West, Coober Pedy, Roxby Downs, Adelaide, Perth, Mildura, Albury, Canberra, Nowra, Bega, Tumut, Goulburn, and Yass.

Mr Bell crosses paths with thousands of show goers per year, he estimates there are approximately 150 punters enjoying a ride every hour during operation.

"I like to watch the kids on the ride, it's good to stand back and watch the little blokes on the their first, big ride," he said. 

Mr Bell loves the nomadic lifestyle, he is a born and bred show man.

"Being part of a show is all I've ever done, my parents were show people. My father started in 1924 with a Boxing Tent and got into rides later. Have you heard of a Boxing Tent? Most people haven't," he asked. 

"We'd challenge the local people to fight against our guys. If you lasted three rounds, you got a crash prize and if not, well you'd get an experience and maybe a black eye."

Mr Bell's siblings are also in the show business and his children Elwin junior, Owen and Laurin as well.

"My wife comes from a show family, we have two boys and a girl who are also travelling. Our daughter married into another show family so we're just one big travelling family," he said.

"My sister Nita lives in Bungendore and she's into the food side of thing, she sells the dagwood dogs and chips. I say 'we thrill them and Nita feeds them!'

"Mr Bell owns a range of machines and games including No Limit, Thunderbolt, Hurricane, Music Trip, Crazy Raft, the Cha Cha, Merry-Go-Round, dodgem cars and jumping castles.

"The engineering of the machines is unreal ... it's built in such a way, it's like a work of art," he said. 

"It does what it does then it has to fold and pack up in a certain width. By law, it has to be a certain length and width so we can load it onto a semi-trailer and travel it around the country."

Mr Bell is currently getting a dodgem track built that folds down rather than each piece of the platform having to be connected by hand. However, the Cha Cha ride remains his most treasured machine by far. 

"The first, big ride I got built was in 1968, it was 'The Cha Cha' and it's my favourite and still one of the best, one of the most popular," he said. 

"We've had it for more than 40 years and just refurbished it this year, it should last us another 40 years. I not might be around but the ride certainly will be."

-Bell's Amusement Hire will be operating at the Queanbeyan Show this weekend November 10-11. Gates open 8.00am.

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