The Gympie District Show: a brief history

MODERN DAY SHOW: Mandy Holland and Tarnaysha Cauchi at this year's wet Gympie Show.
MODERN DAY SHOW: Mandy Holland and Tarnaysha Cauchi at this year's wet Gympie Show. Renee Albrecht

OCTOBER 16, 1877, the debut for the Gympie Agricultural, Mining and Pastoral Society Exhibition, now known at The Gympie Show.

The day picked for the 10th anniversary of James Nash's discovery of gold.

It was the same year the first cricket test match took place, between England and Australia, as well as the first lawn tennis tournament at Wimbledon.

Tchaikovsky's ballet, Swan Lake, also debuted, while Thomas Edison built his first invention, the phonograph, a device to record sound.


"Jolly Nellie". The brief history of the Gympie Show.
"Jolly Nellie". The brief history of the Gympie Show. Contributed

140 years ago, in its debut year, The Gympie Show as it is known today, did not make the equivalent of $150 in gate takings and had an attendance of 2000 people.

In 2005, an average of 25,000 people attended the show.

The book, All Hands To The Plow: A history of the Gympie District Show Society Inc., by Pat Towner, details the journey of the show to its current, modern day form.

The book details the early days and states the groundwork for the show.

On Saint Patrick's Day, March 17, 1877, William Kidd, mine host of Seven Mile Hotel on Brisbane Road, was involved in organising a "plough match” - a competition to see who could best plough a field.

As the gold miners flocked to Gympie, the importance of agriculture to feed the miners grew. The competition between agriculturalists then needed official representation through an association, which was formed in the same year.

The Gympie Agricultural, Mining and Pastoral Society was then formed, and from that the exhibition.

Originally held at Tuckers Paddock, near the railway station, the society then moved to the new Showground at the South Side.

The Gympie Show was once well known for the attractions, some of which have changed as society has.

"Earlier attractions included unfortunates such as "Jolly Nellie” the fat lady, a grossly obese woman weighing 56 stone

"Other such shows were of dwarfs and pygmies. These curiosities have disappeared as sensitivity has improved.”

Towner outlined the diversity of the early show parades.

"The procession to the show ground on opening day was headed by the Chinese of the community,” Towner stated.

"They fired off a fusillade of crackers and beat on gongs and drums and made a very impressive showing.

"Aboriginal members of the community also took part as did many horsemen and bands.”

The brief history of the Gympie Show.
The brief history of the Gympie Show. Contributed

In 1890, a form of side show alley began to emerge.

"By 1890, side show alley was beginning to make an appearance and several entrepreneurs arranged their competitions for the general public in tents erected for the purpose.”

By the early 1900s Towner stated there were difficulties in maintaining the show.

"In this new decade there was a good deal of concern, as horses in the area were suffering from influenza and some had the strangles.”

The show was halted during the first world war, and again during the Depression of the 30s.

The depression, in particular, put further pressure on an failing exhibition, with the show president writing to The Gympie Times for help.

"The president, Mr J. MacDOnnell wrote to the editor of The Gympie Times begging readers for help.

"The annual show had been deteriorating for some time, entries were dwindling especially in schoolwork, most of which came from the Southside School nearby.

"The show of the previous year had made a loss of £338.”

LEFT: Max Krogh, a legend of Gympie wood cutting. The brief history of the Gympie Show.
LEFT: Max Krogh, a legend of Gympie wood cutting. The brief history of the Gympie Show. Contributed

Roughly $34,000 in today's currency, adjusted for inflation.

During the second world war the showgrounds were taken over as a military barracks, which suspended the show for six years.

It was this time that Gympie legendary axeman Vic Summers was at his peak, along with his protege Max Krogh.

The 50s and 60s then saw the show truly re-emerge as a cultural attraction, through post-war abundance and growing economic stability as well as better transport, roads, and bridges across the Mary River.

Alain Henderson had also started calling the show from his customary position in the centre ring.

The 70s and 80s then saw a revitalisation and rebuilding of the showgrounds, increasing capacity and comfort of viewing, including the new grandstand.

Money began to become the key theme for the show in the 90s, with fundraising by the four 1990 Show Girl entrants totalling $43,000.

right: A cartoon from The Gympie Times in the 80s. The brief history of the Gympie Show.
right: A cartoon from The Gympie Times in the 80s. The brief history of the Gympie Show. Contributed

As a result the search for new revenue, as well as other factors, the show began to take on a form we see today - showbags, ferris wheels and fairy floss.

In the year 2000 the show turned 112-years-old, steel yards were built permanently on-site and Machinery Alley featured a rock climbing wall.

In "looking back”, a chapter marking 135 years of the show, Towner states how the exhibition has changed.

"It always seemed colder in May years ago and it was a case of donning overcoats and rugging up to watch the ring events at night,” Towner wrote.

"The Gympie Show brings back a lot of memories; the times when cars bogged to the axles; the shows of the 50's when it was a real family affair, parents dressed to the nines and children in new clothes.

"The dress code has slipped a little these days but many things remain the same, particularly such diverse things as the magnificent livestock and the fairy floss.

"The boxing tent no longer appears and the old-style shooting galleries are rare but the Ferris Wheel has been around for many years and just grows bigger.”

Gympie Times

Topics:  alain henderson first world war gympie history gympie show james nash queensland second world war vic summers

Date nights under $50

ACCORDING to The Bachelor falling in love involves helicopter rides, private jets, shopping trips, and we mustn’t forget the hot tubs.

Brisbane's arts and culture events centre stage

You loved the film, now you're about to love the musical. Don't miss The Bodyguard The Musical in Brisbane this July.

THE arts and culture events you don't want to miss.

Homewares stores to fulfil your Instagram dreams

No Caption

You too can become an Insta-star with these fab stores.

Top 10 Brisbane experiences to cross off your bucket list

Do yourself a favour and get amongst the food truck scene. Eat Street is a great place to start.

A GOOD bucket list doesn’t have to span continents or cost millions.

Six mega sporting events you need to be at this year

Don't miss all the action trackside this season.

IF THERE is one thing Brisbane does damn well, it’s play host.

Six reasons to get to Brisbane this Autumn

The Brisbane Powerhouse has free comedy on Friday nights.

AUTUMN has to be up there with one of the best seasons of the year.

The best things to do in Brisbane are FREE. Yes, FREE

Mt Coot-tha is a seriously gorgeous way to start your day.

HEADING to the big smoke doesn’t have to come with a big price tag.

Millions missing from Gympie region in lost super

HOW TO FIND YOUR LOST SUPER: Kym Edgar of Gympie's Reg Leis Insurance and Financial Services said yesterday an easy option for finding lost super was to log in and use your MyGov account.

Finding your super is not as hard as you think

LED spinner recall prompts warning from father

Teenager holding the fidget spinner device

This product's popularity may come at a high price.

Can not put a price on Sunrise national exposure

Great publicity and exposure for our region

Local Partners

Casual Keanu says fame is ‘cool’

NOBODY expected much of Keanu Reeves' action thriller John Wick when it was released in 2014.

19 dead, 59 injured after nail blast: Ariana Grande concert

There have been multiple confirmed deaths after 'explosions' heard at Ariana Grande concert in Manchester

"We saw blood on people when we got outside."

Ariana Grande breaks her silence after fatal blast

According to reports quoting witnesses, a mass emergency evacuation was prompted after explosions were heard at the end of US singer Ariana Grande's concert in the arena.

The entertainment industry is in shock after attack on concert

Pitch Perfect star suing Woman’s Day over ‘liar’ articles

Actor Rebel Wilson outside court on Friday.

REBEL Wilson's career destroyed by grubby campaign, court hears.

Seven Year Switch: The boner to end all boners

Johnny’s outraged over claims he has a cracked boner.

She gulps. Her face says it all.

Bay to star in Hollywood shark thriller ‘Cage Dive’

Cage Dive, written and directed by Gerald Rascionato, is now screening in the United States of America. It had scenes filmed in Hervey Bay.

And our visiting humpback whales also make appearance.

Celebrity sex tapes: Where does all that money go?

Basically, did Paris and Kim earn fortunes from their videos?

One of Maryborough's most historic homes is still for sale

FULL OF HISTORY: Trisha Moulds is owner of the historic Tinana state known as Rosehill. The beautiful home is currently for sale.

It has been the scene of both joy and tragedies over the years.

The face of the Sunshine Coast's overpriced rental crisis

Alyx Wilson had to rent a $385 unit in Currimundi because the market was too competitive for cheaper rental housing. She is now renting a room from friends who own a house in Currimundi, and says its much more affordable.

Young people feel the strain in competitive, expensive rental market

WATCH: Take a tour of a tradie's dream home

5a Bruce Hiskens Court, Norman Gardens, going for $720,000. INSET: Lea Taylor.

Huge block with potential for anything

Deputy Premier makes massive call on controversial sand mine

Aerial view of the proposed Forest Glen sand mine.

BREAKING: State Government makes huge call on Coast sand mine plans

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!