Getting Up for a Down-Under Dinkum Fair

M'lords, ladies and gentlemen, Brian Cashman, Esq., of Sydney, Australia, president of the Australian American Connection of San Diego, and director of this weekend's Australia Day Fair at the Orange County Fairgrounds.

"G'day. And you're right. People do get upset if I don't say g'day ."

And Americans, Cashman agreed, also expect Australians to drink Foster's for breakfast, to be funnier than Paul Hogan and feistier than a wet kangaroo. Yet it's a commercial image that sells, Cashman said, and he plans no dissolution of digger stereotypes at his Australian Day Fair.

"This is our third year, there will be about 100 exhibitors and everything will be exclusively Australian made," he said. "You can't get in with Taiwan-made stuff."

That means opals from New South Wales and sheepskins from South Australia and emu leather--jewelry, purses, watch bands and things--which has never been shown in this country.

"You don't get much leather off an emu, you know," Cashman explained. "It's only the shin bones that give leather and they're skinny blokes to start with."

A group of aborigines have arrived (by Qantas, of course) to appear at the fair: "They'll be dancing, playing music, demonstrating the use of the boomerangs and the womeras and other nasty things. We were going to release a few low-flying pigeons to let the aborigines have a go. But I'm not sure the insurance company is going to be too happy about that."

Australia's past, her 18th-Century settlement by convict labor and current Bicentennial Celebration will be recognized: "By a competition where we will give away two free tickets to Sydney . . . but only if your name appears on the list of original transported convicts."

Australia's huge and athletic outdoors, from diving on the Great Barrier Reef through skiing on Mt. Kosciusko to sailing off Perth will be represented and "we'll be showing what are known as 'ugh boots' made of sheepskin. I don't know why they're called ugh boots and I'll have to ask this bloke when he appears.

"But they do sell enormous quantities, particularly in the snow-skiing areas. Every one I've seen looks rather strange in the rain. They kind of get stringy."

Cashman's fair grew from his San Diego philately business, which became the Australian American Connection, a wholesale importer of Australian goods.

"As we got to know more people importing Australian goods, we were able to extend the range and put on these Australia Day fairs," he said. "We started in San Diego with 10 exhibitors and $1,600 in the kitty. In one wet Friday afternoon we got 2,200 people through the door and realized that we had something here that was worth pursuing.

"And that coincided with the start of the Great Australian Splurge--the Paul Hogan advertisements, the 'Crocodile' Dundee movie, Foster's (ale) came back on the scene, and very definitely the America's Cup contest.

"But I think it was the Hogan advertisements, the shrimp-on-the-barbie one, that really unleashed some kind of inherent interest--fascination if you like--with Australia and Australian things."

Cashman's fair carries the endorsement of the Australia Day Fair Council in Sydney, an organization dedicated to enlarging commemoration of Jan. 26, Australia Day, Down Under's equivalent of the Fourth of July.

Last year, in honor of the anniversary and the fair, Cashman received special instructions from the council.

"It was a kit that said the first baby born on Jan. 26 was to be an honorary Australian citizen for the day," Cashman said. "So a very puzzled Mexican lady in a San Diego hospital had two Australians leap into the maternity ward and hand over this certificate naming this child an Australian citizen for the day.

"Everybody retreated in great disarray and we will have to be a little more circumspect in the future. But it's all a giggle, it has to be, because that's the way the Australians laugh at themselves."

Australia Day Fair, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., today , 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, at the Orange County Fairgrounds , Costa Mesa. Admission: $4 for adults, $2 for children younger than 10.

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