In 1822, a group of Sydney's leading citizens formed the Agricultural Society of NSW with the aim of "furthering the quality of Australia's primary production by means of contests and competitions".
Eleven officers were elected and the RAS staged its first Show at Parramatta the following year. At the time, Parramatta was the bread bowl of Australia, the agricultural hub of the colony, which was struggling to provide for its population of 30,000, half of them convicts.
Despite its initial success the RAS lapsed in 1836 due to the pressure of drought and economic depression, but re-formed in 1857. The RAS’ Shows, known at the time as Exhibitions, were held at Parramatta until 1868 and subsequently moved to Prince Alfred Park.
Shows continued at Prince Alfred Park until 1881, when high rent and empty coffers forced the RAS to look for a new venue.The City Council offered 40 acres of unpromising, sandy scrub at Moore Park for an annual rent of £10. With the help of the NSW Government and public subscriptions the Society built a showground, which became home to the Show for the next 115 years.
In the intervening years, the Society had become the Royal Agricultural Society, an honour bestowed by Queen Victoria in 1891.
While the bubonic plague did not stop the Show when it struck Sydney in 1900, the influenza epidemic of 1919 caused chaos. The Show was cancelled and Moore Park buildings were used as a temporary hospital and morgue. During World War II the Sydney Royal Easter Show was cancelled when Moore Park was requisitioned for military use, and some 700,000 troops passed through its grounds.
By the late 1980s the Sydney Royal Easter Show had outgrown its Moore Park facilities. In 1994 the NSW Government approved its relocation to Sydney Olympic Park at Homebush. The first Show was held there in 1998.
Today the Show is Australia’s biggest annual event, injecting more than $500m into the NSW economy and attracting close to a million visitors with its entertainment, exhibitions, competitions and vivid depictions of rural life.