My Fair BrumbyApril 10, 2014

The Sydney Royal Easter Show, to be held on April 10-23, is more than a showcase of our four-legged mates. This event takes a peek at Sydney's past.

Sydney is the state capital of New South Wales, the most populous city in Australia. It came a long way if one would look at the images of the metropolis during the early 18th century. Drought and disease were widespread back then. Parammata Park was an agricultural hub, but the population of 30,000 were struggling. (The gold rush in the 1850s changed the city's fortune.) The first show was held in 1823 in Parammata. Prizes of plate were given for stallions and rams, while servants were judged to reward good conduct and farming skills. The Show was aimed to encourage improvement in local animals and agricultural methods, but the outcome was beyond what the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales, the organisers, have imagined.

The growth of the Royal Easter Show reflected Sydney's transformation; a fine arts exhibition became a special feature a few decades later. Even business took part during the turn of the 20th century, giving free samples through showbags. Sydney's urbanisation doesn't mean that The Show became less relevant. On the contrary, the event was an opportunity to show the best cattle, pigs, poultry, and sheep. After all, Australia is a major agricultural producer and exporter. It's like a scene from "Babe: the Gallant Pig", Chris Noonan's heartwarming flick about a pig who wants to be a sheepdog. But the horse is the star of The Show. In fact, they have been there from the beginning.

Here is a timeline of horse competition and events:

1878 Jumping

1882 Equestrienne classes

1884 Steeplechase

1884 Harness

1885 Prizes for military and turnout

1886 High jump

1886 Trotting

1887 Pony harness

1889 Pony jumping

1890 First male children’s class

1891 Water jump

1892 First female children’s class

1895 Hunting contests and Gentlemen’s riding

1901 Pony high jumping and trotting

1907 Tandem jumping

1911 Horse shoeing competition

1924 Mounted Police

1930 Flag races

1931 Rodeo

1934 Campdraft

1939 Polo

1952 Dressage

1957 Three day events

1959 Polocrosse

1969 Tentpegging

1980 Campdraft

1999 Cutting Horse Challenge

2000 Team Yarding and Reining Horse challenges

2000 Riding for the Disabled

Aside from arts and crafts, there are competitions in cookery and photography, as well as tests of strength and skill. Woodchopping is arguably the most popular, having been first introduced in 1899. It's an agricultural show, amusement park, and fair in one, attracting one million people a year.

Here are more firsts:

1. The first fireworks were displayed in 1884.

2. Showgoers were able to enjoy an evening for the first time in 1894.

3. The Grand Parade was first held in 1907.

4. The first carnival ride was in 1901.

5. In 1927, the Duke and Duchess of York were the first royals to visit the Show.

6. Attendance reached the one million mark for the first time in 1938.

7. The first Showgirl competition was held in 1962.

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