History of the Gunnedah Show
The Gunnedah Showground was little more than a clearing in a pine scrub when the fledgling Gunnedah P A & H Association conducted its first show in 1888.
The annual show was the most important event of the year in the early 1900s. Crowds arrived by horse and buggy, spring cart, on horseback and on foot. Trains ran at excursion rates to bring visitors from across the region and those that could afford it bought outfits for the social and sporting event of the year.
For many people, particularly those from outlying villages, the show was one of the few times they came to town.
With the exception of couple of early years where severe drought caused its abandonment, and during the Great Depression, the Gunnedah Show has been held on the same grounds in South Street.
The first show was hailed a raging success. The Sydney Mail, under the heading “Gay Gunnedah” reported that “the first show…. was a great festival week for the town”.
Festivities included the first annual meeting of the Amateur Turf Club, a ministerial visit (the Minister was not named), a banquet by the Church of England Council, three balls and a live pigeon shooting match.
The Mail reported that the area was in drought and “the dust rose in great clouds”.
“Hotels were overcrowded, beds were unprocurable. Many visitors came from Sydney,” the report stated.
A highlight of that event was the unveiling of the Wolseley shearing machine. Geddes’ special prize of £20 was awarded for the best 20 ewes fleeces shorn by the steam powered machine.
Times have changed. Wool is no longer king and agriculture has seen economic fluctuations. Such is the diversity of the town that the animal nursery, which would have been greeted with boredom by most families a century ago is now a star attraction. The horse events remain a principal attraction for many people attending and competing in the show, particularly showjumping.
The show dubbed “the Royal of the North” 40 years ago continues to live up to its reputation drawing visitors and competitors from across the north and further afield.