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October - Royal Show

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The Perth Royal Show has been selected as the tenth Western Australian Heritage Icon for both its historical and social significance to Western Australia.

Royal Show 1905, Click to view a larger image 

Children will be given free entry to the 100th Perth Royal Show at Claremont Showgrounds next month as part of the celebrations to mark the 175th Anniversary of Western Australia. Premier Geoff Gallop said the State Government gesture would ensure as many families as possible had the opportunity to experience the excitement and the tradition that has led to the naming of the Royal Show as a 175th Anniversary Icon.

Celebrating the past 100 years

For the past 100 years Claremont Showgrounds have been the site of fun and frivolity, competition, innovation and challenge. This year, as well as celebrating the 175th anniversary of the founding of the State, the Perth Royal Show celebrates 100 years at the Claremont Showgrounds. A lot has changed in 100 years. And a lot has stayed the same.

The Royal Show was one of the major events on the State's social calendar. In the early years, there weren't any stomach churning rides that propelled you into the air and threw you upside down or hurled you backward, forward and sideways. There weren't 230 showbags to choose from or 15,000 animals competing for prizes. Although in 1907, a zebmule, a cross between a zebra and mule, did make a startling appearance.

Grace Whittingham 1920, Click to view a larger image

Early Day Entertainment

Many of the competitions that attract visitors today were also an integral part of the Show in the early days, including equestrian events, sheep dog trials, wood chopping and the prestigious cattle and sheep events. In 1905, women competing in equestrian events helped the cause of feminism by riding with divided skirts instead of side saddle.

Casual wear was unheard of at the turn of the century as photographs show ladies dressed in gloves and umbrellas, gentlemen in long trousers wearing hats and children in pinafores. While the YWCA offered refined refreshments there was no lamb van, cappuccino to go or roller skating waitresses.

Over the decades, the Perth Royal Show has mirrored the changing fortunes of WA. From the immense hardships and disappointments of the early settlers, growth in the 1920s, bleakness of the Great Depression, austerity of the Second World War, technological advances and innovative farming practices that fuelled the post war boom, struggles with international competitiveness in the 1970s and modern challenges of drought and globalisation.

Grand Parade at the Perth Royal Show, Click to view a larger image

Show Evolution

Through it all, the Perth Royal Show has evolved. Competitions have expanded. The first wine show was held in 1966, goats made their debut in the 1970s. The Animal Nursery opened is doors in 1966 with 23 baby animals on display. That year, 50,000 people visited.

Some events have not stood the test of time. A potato peeling competition soon went out of fashion and the bullock riding event lasted only one year because the bullocks escaped.

Entertainment has always been an important part of the Show experience. In the early part of the century, visitors watched flypasts and aerobatics from a pioneer aviator, queued for Madam Cora's clairvoyance sessions and watched exhibitions of tigers and lions. Boxing troupes were popular for many years as were acts of dubious taste such as flame swallowers, quarter woman and head that speaks. Many show goers were disappointed when Royal Agricultural Society of WA organisers decided Sideshow Alley was not the appropriate place for fan dancers with names like Gigi and Paulette. Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs performed to excited crowds at the 1966 Perth Royal Show but the following year Johnny Young failed to be the drawcard organisers anticipated.

Sideshow Alley by Night

Something for everyone

Since the Perth Royal Show moved to Claremont, a new education and dairy pavilion have been built, new retail pavilions, the Main Arena has had a make over, the cattle lanes overhauled and public amenities improved as visitor numbers swelled from 30,000 in 1905, to 200,000 in 1946 and 400,000 today.

The key to the Show's success is its wide appeal. It is a place to discover, a place to have fun, a place where rural WA is celebrated. In many respects, the Perth Royal Show is timeless. After 100 years at Claremont Showgrounds it is still a great adventure; a magical day and deserving of being the ninth heritage icon in our 175th anniversary year.