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The Grandest Parade

Posted on : 22 March 2016

One of the most venerable traditions of the Sydney Royal Easter Show is the Grand Parade. First held in 1907, it's the most colourful livestock spectacle in the world and a masterpiece of organisation. Hundreds of animals and their handlers appear, along with other invited human champions.

The long procession enters the Main Arena and circles in complex patterns under the control of the Ringmaster. At a certain point, the Ringmaster blows a whistle for all to stand still. It's a photo opportunity and long-time tradition. The tradition goes back to the days of box Brownie cameras when moving subjects would not be in focus. The audience is always asked not to applaud for safety reasons. With hundreds of livestock all in together, the situation is potentially dangerous if animals are spooked. Keeping everything in order are the Greencoats, highly skilled stewards mounted on grey horses, most of whom have been doing the job for many years.

The serpentine patterns alter little from year to year unless there is a special reason, as was the case in 1932 when the cattle were arranged to form the shape of the newly opened Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Three Grand Parades are held each year at the Show. While everyone is mindful of safety issues there are often pranks, like the time the Ringmaster called in the mounted police to breathalyse a group of judges and stewards on horseback.

Sydney's majestic ceremony soon became famous and Grand Parades on a smaller scale are now a part of many agricultural shows around Australia and overseas.

WORDS: Vicki Hastrich
(Published March 2016)