Agricultural Show's history on show

FOLLOWING the success of recent Esperance and District Agricultural Shows, local historian Neville Mulgat has looked into the history of the event.

“Early photographs in the Esperance Museum archives show show day festivities held adjacent to the Bijou Theatre in Dempster Street in about 1896,” Mr Mulgat said.

“Older Esperance residents may remember the ‘modern’ Agricultural Show beginning in 1952 when the event was held in Hancock’s Hall on Andrew Street, once adjoining the now large vacant block on the Esplanade corner.”  

In October 1953 the Agricultural Show expanded and moved to the Bijou Theatre. 

“Wheelbarrow races from the James Street Jetty, down Andrew Street, to the Bijou Theatre prior to that show opening provided much amusement for onlookers,” Mr Mulgat said.

“It was an afternoon event then and at 5pm the hall was cleared for the highlight of the year, the Show Ball and presentation of trophies,” he said.

Esperance development saw the show outgrow the Bijou Theatre, and it moved in 1955 to the Fresh Air League grounds on Goldfields Road, currently the site of Youth Hostels Association and the Shire Caravan Park, now Esperance Seafront Caravan Park. 

By 1964 the population had increased to about 4,000 and the show outgrew the Goldfields Road venue and moved to Black Street. 

“A battle ensued to have construction of the new Noel White Memorial Hall completed by Show Day, and it was completed at the last moment, thanks to a huge community effort and the welcome assistance of early arriving showmen,” Mr Mulgat said.

The annual Show later became a three-day event, with a rodeo held on the third day. 

“Being held on grounds without suitable fencing created huge problems,” Mr Mulgat said. 

“Steers were prone to jump out of the arena into the nearby residential area, with one even going as far as jumping into the ocean, having to be rounded up with the help of a small boat,” he said.

The annual Esperance Agricultural Show eventually returned being a two-day event and today is now considered to be the most anticipated and enjoyable event on Esperance’s calendar.

Old photos are always welcomed by the Esperance Bay Historical Society.

Contact Neville Mulgat on 9071 1493.

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