History of the Show
The ActewAGL Royal Canberra Show, Canberra's largest all ages event, is staged annually by the Royal National Capital Agricultural Society. While having agriculture at its core, the Show has broadened over the years to reflect more entertainment, educational features and exhibitions, ensuring that there is a vibrant mix of "city meeting country" and "country meeting city".
Entries for the various livestock and agricultural competitions continue to increase each year, reflecting the significant role the Show plays in the development of the skills and excellence of those who live in the surrounding region. It also reflects the role that the ActewAGL Royal Canberra Show plays in attracting visitors from all over Australia for the event. The ActewAGL Royal Canberra Show can trace its origins back to 1908 when the Ginninderra Farmers' Union organised a show at Ginninderra. It was regarded as an unqualified success and in the ensuing years went on to become the most successful event of its type in the district.
The seventh and last show at Ginninderra was held in 1915, just prior to the Federal Government resuming ownership of the site. The Union was disbanded and its funds distributed to various charities.
Though sports meetings to raise funds for the Red Cross were held at the Hall Recreation Reserve during the years of the First World War, it was not until 1924 that a successor to the Ginninderra Farmers' Union was formed. The Advance Hall and District Association organised a small district show in 1924 and 1925 when the Federal Government granted an extension to the showground area. The extension comprised of a skillion roofed shed and an unfenced area. A second ring was cut out of the virgin bush by voluntary labour.
he show of 1927 is officially recognised by the Royal National Capital Agricultural Society as the first "inaugural" Canberra Show. In that year the association was renamed the Advance Hall Pastoral and Agricultural Association, with the development of Show activities being its sole purpose.
After a string of successful one-day shows the first two-day show was held in 1931 with the records of 1932 standing as testimony to the growth of the show. In that year the entries increased from 1000 to 1400 while the attendance over the two days increased from 1100 to 1700.
The show of 1932 was opened by Prime Minister J.A. Lyons with the promise of an infusion of greater Federal Government funds to elevate the show to one of national status.
With the advent of World War II, this development was halted. The post war years saw new clubs form and old ones reactivated. The horse and sheep sections were always well supported and the calibre of entries brought to the shows a great deal of respect. Sir Walter Merriman, arguably the best known Australian merino breeder, was a great supporter of the show at Hall.
In 1961 the National Agricultural Society was constituted and two years later the present Showground site of 40 hectares was selected and development began. 1963 marked the end of an era with the last show at the Hall Showground.
The move from Hall to the current site was met with the approval of the Canberra populace whose support was reflected in attendance figures of 15,000 in 1964 compared with 9,000 in 1962.
The 1964 show, the 35th annual show and the first at the Canberra Showground, opened on Friday, March 6 but not even the cold and gusty conditions dampened the enthusiasm of a record visitor turnout.
But these conditions were nothing compared to those the following year. In 1965 the Society erected a 10,000 square feet marquee in which to house displays by local firms and overseas countries but record wind gusts blew down the marquee, trapping about 200 persons inside the collapsed canvas. Fortunately no one was badly injured. 1965 can be more favourably remembered for exhibiting cattle for the first time.