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Behind the Scenes Heritage Pavilion 2021: Sesquicentenary of First Fleet Arrival

Posted on : 30 March 2021

When Australia commemorated the 150th anniversary of European settlement, the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW joined in the celebrations.

In 1938 Australia commemorated the 150th anniversary of Captain Arthur Phillip’s landing at Sydney Cove in 1788, and the subsequent establishment of European settlement. A large programme of festivities was held throughout NSW and the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW was closely involved with the State Government in staging the biggest events.

The year kicked off on 26 January with a huge street parade sponsored by the Government. Called the 'March to Nationhood', the parade involved over 100 floats. It started in the city and finished at the Moore Park Showground. A second parade following the same route was held during Showtime. Styled as the 'March of Industry and Commerce', its floats paid tribute to every branch of primary and secondary industry. The procession culminated in the main arena where twelve thousand school children performed a 'Wheel of Progress', dressed in coloured sports uniforms. The floats remained on display until the evening.

The special 'Anniversary Show' that the RAS put on that year was an extravaganza. In preparation, the grounds underwent a complete makeover. The State Government assisted with the construction of two new pavilions, each with an area of 45,000 square feet. They were named the 150th Anniversary Commemorative Pavilion, and the Australian Manufacturers' Hall. To accommodate these buildings the Society spent £75,000 rearranging the cattle section of the Showground. New cattle, pig and dog pavilions were erected, with open space reserved for public recreation. A new wood chopping stadium was also completed.

Everything was bigger and better than before, including the entertainment, and the public responded in droves. For the first time, attendances at the Show passed the million mark. With an extended run of thirteen days and eleven nights, it was the largest and most successful Show in the Society's history to that date.

The 1938 Anniversary Show was an important marker of progress for the RAS and the Showground itself. While the outbreak of war in 1939 meant a number of other grand plans had to be put on hold, the 1938 Show would remain as a bright spot for many in the years to come.


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