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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

First Showgrounds, Walker Street, Dandenong, Between 1904-1906.

Before the Agricultural Society took complete control of the Dandy Show, it was a community affair. This show from 1904-1906, gives a glimpse of the first Showgrounds. People would display their wares and enjoy a day of fun family activities, from nothing more than a tent, often bringing a packed lunch to enjoy upon the grass. Located off Walker street, behind the Royal Hotel (at this time run by Tuff).

On Saturday 27th May 1871, a meeting was held at Dunbars Hotel on Lonsdale Street, Dandenong to discuss the launch of an Agricultural Show. Barely three days later at the Dandenong Market, the "Dandenong and South Bourke Agricultural Association" was born due to the hard work and determination of a group of men and thus began the beginnings of what we know as the Dandenong Show.

The first show was held at the Dandenong Market site, which was then located in the area bounded by Foster, Thomas, Mason and Walker Streets. In November 1877 two half-acre allotments adjoining the Society’s showyards were bought from John Hemmings and in 1878 the Minister for Railways allowed special trains, with excursion tickets, to run from the suburbs of Melbourne to the Show.

In 1888 a new exhibition hall was built. The building was wooden with a galvanized iron roof with a total area of 285ft. The hall was lit with gas, a large chandelier containing about 30 burners fixed in the centre with a smaller one at each end, and a water tank built at the rear. The building was a major achievement not only for the Society, but for the community, because it provided a larger meeting place than the Mechanics Institute as the Town Hall would not be built until 1890.

With the show continuing to grow in size and popularity, it was decided to sell the old showground and have a new set-up at the Clow Street/Market Reserve as this would be most advantageous for the community and all concerned. In 1907 the show was held at the new site with a 10 year lease from the council. In 1936 the show was changed from the traditional Thursday to the second Saturday of November which carries through to present day.

1967 saw the first show held at Greaves Reserve, which was named after the late William Greaves who donated a portion of the land. It was a record breaking event with 4175 entries and an impressive $4234 total made at the gate. Two brand new toilet blocks had also been erected along with new drainage and other things before the show to allow for the expected large crowds.

Over the next few years the show gained enough momentum that In 1973, an additional 8 acres of land west of the creek near Hanna Street was obtained on licence from the CRB (Country Roads Board). In November 1986, four lighting towers were erected around the main arena to allow proper lighting of it for Saturday night attractions.

2002 saw the completion of the three year project, the Historic Cattle Ring Complex, built to house the Milker Ring that had been saved and restored when the Dandenong Stock Market had been closed and dismantled. The Dandenong Show that we all know and love today is indeed immensely rich in history and is very much an integral part of the Dandenong life and culture.

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