The Wagga Wagga Show Society, which operated originally under the title Murrumbidgee Pastoral Association, had humble beginnings comprising of a few district squatters and townsmen. Mr W. O. Windeyer from Wantabadgery had the honour of serving as first President of the Association, while Henry Baylis acted as first Secretary. The inaugural Wagga Wagga Show organised by the Association was held on Wagga Wagga Racecourse on 21 November 1865. The Show catered mainly for cattle, sheep and horse exhibitions and awarded prizes in categories relating to thoroughbred horses, draught horses, Shorthorns, Herefords, merinos and extra stock. For many years the Wagga Wagga Show continued to function primarily for pastoralists, becoming one of the leading and oldest sheep shows in Australia.
In 1874, the Murrumbidgee Pastoral Association was the centre of controversy at the Association's Show dinner, when Wagga Wagga's Police Magistrate, Henry Baylis, made a rather unamiable comment about the integrity of the local press, causing the editor of the Wagga Wagga Express, G. A. Eldred, to storm out in protest. The Wagga Wagga Advertiser, on the 5 September 1874, questioned Baylis's tact, stating that "it was not exactly the place for the introduction of self-interested statements". The paper continued rather sarcastically that, according to Baylis, "reporting was a farce, and was either good or bad according to the amount of exhilarating liquor swilled by the reporter". Notwithstanding, the Association continued on relatively unscathed as Baylis stood his ground over the matter.
The Association broadened its focus in 1884 and changed its name to the Murrumbidgee Pastoral and Agricultural Association. The following year the Association purchased land at the present showground site and relocated the pavilion, poultry halls, press and telegraph offices and grandstand from the racecourse. For a number of years, the Association continued to provide encouragement to the developing pastoral, agricultural, horticultural and industrial sectors. Attendance numbers at the show have always been impressive, with up to 18 000 visitors entering the grounds during its Diamond Jubilee year in 1925. In conjunction with show days, special trains were organised to commute visitors from all over the Riverina and Murray regions to the showgrounds. During 1961, the Murrumbidgee Pastoral and Agricultural Association changed its name again to the present Wagga Wagga Show Society.
The Wagga Wagga Show has developed to become one of the main attractions in the city each year. Although the agricultural theme is still prevalent, the Show offers a variety of exhibits and stalls relating to arts and crafts, food and community information, not to mention the allure of amusement rides in sideshow alley. The fireworks display and crowning and Miss Wagga Wagga Showgirl have always been crowd pleasers. The Wagga Wagga Show Society collection also contains records of the Wagga Show Trotting Club and Night Trotting Control Board, as well as records from the NSW Branch of the Australian Society of Breeders of British Sheep.
Compiled by : James Logan.
Sources : Swan, Keith J., A History of Wagga Wagga. City of Wagga Wagga, 1970; Daily Express Pictorial, Under the Camera - Wagga Wagga - Trade Centre of Southern New South Wales, 1926; MPAA Minute Books, 1869-1947, RW201, CSURA; Wagga Wagga Advertiser, 1874.