A Short History of the Sydney Royal Easter Show

The Sydney Royal Easter Show is the nation’s largest annual event, currently attracting more than 1.5 million visitors a year. As we walk around the gargantuan grounds, we can’t help but breathe in the two centuries of community hard work and spirit that has gone into forming the show. Generations of families, from far and wide, from city to country, have been a part of the Sydney Royal Easter Show. Which makes you think… What exactly is the history of the Sydney Royal Easter Show? From where did all of these traditions come?

Well, it all began in 1822, with the establishment of the Agricultural Society of New South Wales (ASNSW). The goal of the ASNSW and the show was to encourage improvement in local livestock and agricultural care methods to better the NSW Agricultural sector, which was struggling at the time. It also provided education, while allowing members to meet and conduct business. These responsibilities and ambitions of the ANSW, now known as the Royal Agricultural Society (RAS) continue today.

The first show was held at Parramatta Park in 1823, making this the 195th year of the show. It involved prizes for the best merino sheep, cattle, and stallions, as well as to exceptional servants. Isn’t it interesting how customs have changed over the years?

The events of the show followed similar formats as this for a number of decades, until 1869, when it moved to the grounds in Prince Alfred Park. The first show here attracted more than 37,000 attendants! Pretty good numbers for that time! Prizes were offered for livestock, farm produce, wines, horticulture, poultry, farm machinery, and articles of colonial manufacture.

In 1882, the show moved to Moore Park. The move allowed for more entertainment in the form of rides, animal acts, animal displays, and human sideshows. However, performing animals and ‘freakshows,’ were banned in 1948 in order to ‘clean up,’ the show. It was at Moore Park where the grand show we know and love began, with the inclusion of pavilions, grandstands, and halls for exhibitions.

In 1891, Queen Victoria granted permission for the ASNSW to be named the ‘Royal,’ Agricultural Society, providing us with the name we know today.

As for some of the most iconic events, rodeos began in the 1930s, showbags began circulation in the 1960s, the first fireworks display was in 1884, and the first wood-chopping contest was held in 1899. The first carnival ride at the Show was in 1901 and involved two carriages that swung around at the fairly modest speed of 48km/h. Another amazing achievement for the early 1900s!

Finally, in the year 1998, after years of works and planning, the show moved to Homebush Bay at Sydney Olympic Park, where it remains to this day. This move was to upgrade the size and build even more purpose-built display facilities.

This year marks the 195th year of the Sydney Royal Easter Show. To forget the history would be unimaginable, considering how incredibly vast and fascinating it really is! If you’d like to know more, head to the Heritage Pavilion, at the Grand parade, corner Hawkesbury Street. There, you can learn more about the show during the 1950s, through fun, interactive exhibits. Make sure you take a second to breathe in the fresh air, and the generations of love and knowledge that has made the show what we know today!

All images courtesy of the Royal Agricultural Society and the Sydney Morning Herald

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