STAWELL - The Stawell Agricultural Society Show celebrates a major milestone tomorrow - Fifty years in existence.
Throughout the years, the Agricultural Show Society has received wonderful support from Stawell and district businesses, who provide sponsorship for most prizes and trophies.
The show is also well supported by the community and local craft groups. Items entered in the Hall Classes always create a wonderful range of displays and the volunteers on the Stawell Agricultural Show Committee devote many hours to organise and run the show for the Stawell and district people.
The Wimmera Pastoral and Agricultural Society was formed at a meeting held in the Commercial Hotel in Stawell, on May 8, 1869. Sir Samuel Wilson of Longerenong Station near Horsham was the first president and John McLaren from Stawell was the first secretary.
Landholders and businessmen from Stawell, Longerenong, Rupanyup, Banyena, Callawadda, Greens Creek, Joel Joel and Navarre were members of the original committee. After only twelve weeks preparation, the first Agricultural Show in the Wimmera was held in Stawell on Thursday, August 19, 1869.
In the first show, there were sections for horses, sheep, cattle, pigs and poultry. The agricultural sections included grain, fruit and vegetables, dairy produce, wine and beer. There were also exhibits of agricultural machinery, mining appliances, coachbuilder's buggies, wagons and drays.
The Wimmera Pastoral and Agricultural Show became very popular, with the 1894 show attracting 4000 patrons. As Horsham grew it became the regional centre for the Wimmera and the name of the Society was changed to the Stawell Agricultural Society.
The 1925 show was poorly attended and in 1926 the committee was disbanded, with the Borough Council taking over the assets and liabilities of the committee. The grandstand was moved to Central Park and is still used today as the present number two grandstand.
In 1963, after a gap of thirty-eight years, the Stawell Agricultural Society was reformed, with support from the Stawell Apex Club and the Stawell Rotary Club. Cyril Smith was the first president and Mrs E M Richards was the secretary. The first show was held on Friday, October 11, 1963 at Laidlaw Park.
The 1964 show was held on a Saturday and additions to the program included wood chopping, sheep shearing, Highland Dancing and a Junior Show Girl. The Stawell Brass Band played at the 1964 show and a Young Farmers' Cattle Judging Competition was added to the program.
In 1965 the Show was held on the fourth Saturday in October, the Young Farmers' Club Building was constructed, a Miss Tiny Tots Competition was introduced, and Olympic Jumping Competitions were added to the horse program.
In 1966 the poultry pavilion was constructed, a Young Farmer's Calf Rearing Competition was introduced and with support from the Stawell Homing Club, 58 classes for pigeons were added to the program.
The following year, the Ladies Auxiliary was established to help with the Hall Classes. A Miss Mod Show Girl (11 - 15 yrs), coloured or black and white print classes for photography were added to the schedule.
In 1969 the Town of Stawell celebrated its first one hundred years with nine crowded days and nights of activities. This year also marked the introduction of a Wimmera Regional Final and a State Final for the Sun Show Girl Competition, the introduction of the Mayfair-Honda Agricultural Motor Cycle Competition and the photography competition was changed to coloured slides instead of prints.
The 1970 Show featured a special Angus Cattle Feature Show and the 1971 Show featured a special Murray Grey Feature Show. Nine classes for goats were introduced.
The 1971 schedule thanks twenty-six local graziers (members of the society) who generously offered to agist cattle free of charge in support of the society's Cattle Raising Project. It was hoped that profit from the two year project would cover the cost of electrical installations, which were completed at the showgrounds in time for the 1970 show.
Features of the 1972 show included a special Hereford Feature Show, a Charolais beef cattle exhibition and Scottish Highland Games, with 28lb shotput, a 16lb Scottish Hammer Throw, tossing a 28lb weight for distance, tossing a 56lb weight over the bar, a caber toss and a six man Scottish Standing Tug-O'War. Photography was removed from the Stawell Show competitions.
The 1974 show included a special schedule for a Beef Shorthorn Feature Show and an action packed Quarter Horse cutting display.
The Cattle Raising Project had been extended and was supported by thirty-five local graziers, who were agisting cattle free of charge for the Show Society.
In 1975 the Quarter Horse cutting contest was introduced into the program and in 1976 hand-spun spinning and weaving classes were added to the schedule. As there were few entries in the dog classes in 1976, the 1977 schedule only listed eight classes for dogs.