It’s official – school fetes are out of control.

A few weekends ago I noticed a sign on the fence of the school I’d love my daughter to go to. It was advertising the yearly fundraising fete. A perfect opportunity, I thought, to check out the facilities in a fun way. We could go as a family, meet other families, maybe some teachers, and get Millie excited about going to big school.

I know the dollar is hard to chase in this day and age, but school fetes need to calm the hell down. I thought I had turned up to the Ekka. I wandered around in a confused daze. The school oval became sideshow alley, the quadrangle an international food court. The school hall was a full shopping mall and the art auction rivalled Sotheby’s. If the day’s activities weren’t enough, the evening involved a concert full of ex-reality TV stars followed by fireworks. This little private school was transformed into the RNA and cost about the same.

As my wallet haemorrhaged money, I wondered what had happened to the crafty, quaint school fetes of old. When had the sausage sizzles manned by the doting dad’s been replaced by a funky food truck fiesta?

When I was a girl, the most exciting thing was the hay bail ride, which involved my friend’s dad’s tractor pulling a trailer around the oval. He didn’t really care if any of us fell off — he’d pick us up on the next loop.

The lucky dip was the ultimate re-gifting experience — mums simply emptying the present cupboard at home and purging the awful stuff they couldn’t legitimately give, but sure as hell could wrap in newspaper and charge $1 for the luxury of finally being able to get it out of the house.

The craft stall was every mum’s chance to show off their latest hobby, from femo jewelry to folk art hat hooks. Some mums showed how gracious they were by willingly buying other mums’, uh, ‘creative’ creations, supporting the school and simultaneously collecting stuff that would end up in next year’s lucky dip.

Petting zoos have replaced the pet parades, where Ralphs, Rexes and Rubys, rambunctiously ran up and down the cricket pitch. It cost $5 to enter your pet to win a $5 prize, but no one cared about winning — they just wanted to bring their puppy to school, something you can’t do on an ordinary day.

And oh, the sweets at the cake stall. Toffees you broke your wobbly tooth on, heavenly home made marshmallow covered in a mountain of coconut that stuck to your jumper like dandruff, butterfly cupcakes with the cakey wings sitting in a pool of jam and Mrs Whoeveristhebestbaker’s champion sponge with cream, so much cream. You had to get in quick before every last crumb was sold and all that was left was the weird looking rock cakes no one ever owned up to baking.

I really do understand that money needs to be made at these events, but the amount of work that obviously went into this fete had me considering home schooling, because being on the organising committee would surely be a full time job.

And as for Millie?  Despite the overwhelming amount of flashy and expensive rides to choose from, all she wanted to do was play the whole time on the school monkey bars — which, obviously, were free.