Agricultural Shows

Royal Tasmanian Agricultural Show, Glenorchy, 1920 (AOT, PH30/1/200)

Agricultural Shows have a long history in Tasmania. Richmond held its first show in 1836, and the Campbell Town Show, sponsored by the Midlands Agricultural Association, was established in 1838 and is the oldest continually running event of its kind in the southern hemisphere. The prestigious Zegna Trophy for the best superfine fleece is a feature. From the 1830s, many other towns around the island held annual shows.

The Van Diemen's Land Agricultural Society, the first in Australia, was formed in Hobart in 1822, although its primary objective was not the dissemination of knowledge but the prevention of stock thefts. In 1874, when it held its first show, the name changed to the Southern Tasmanian Agricultural Pastoral and Horticultural Society, and, in 1922, the Royal Agricultural Society of Tasmania. The Cornwall Agricultural Society was formed in Launceston in 1833 and held its first show in 1873.

Agricultural shows were once the means by which agricultural and pastoral societies could promote rural industry with displays of produce, demonstrations, handcrafts and livestock. Today, government agencies and commercial manufacturers also use them to promote their services and products. In 2004 there are some 20 show societies in Tasmania, ensuring that rural Tasmania is widely showcased to city, town and country people. Many shows have reached their centenary: Campbell Town (1839), Longford (1856), Westbury (1864), Evandale (1868), Launceston (1873), Royal Hobart (1874), Bushy Park (1875), Ulverstone (1879), Scottsdale (1881) and Wynyard (1885). The Richmond (1836), St Marys (1892) and Collinsvale (1895) shows had long histories but no longer exist. Since 1983 the Rural Youth Organisation of Tasmania has held the increasingly popular Agfest.

A development from agricultural shows: the Ross Rodeo, 1989 (AOT, PH30/1/9247)

Further reading: Show programmes, TL; Agricultural Show Council of Tasmania, Tasmanian agricultural shows; V Taylor & P Taylor, Midland Agricultural Association, 18381988, Launceston, 1988.

Margaret Harman