Royal Adelaide Show

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The Royal Adelaide Show at night from above
Sideshow Alley at the Royal Adelaide Show. The Mad Mouse was a beloved attraction for 40 years at the show.

The Royal Adelaide Show also known as the Royal Show or simply The Show, is an annual agricultural show and fair held in Adelaide, South Australia that begins on the first Friday in September, and runs for 2 weeks. It is held at the Adelaide Showground, located in Wayville and is attended by thousands. It features food, rides, a Ferris wheel, competitions and animal races.

The Royal Show is primarily an opportunity for the State's farmers to show examples of their livestock. There is Horticulture on display with the freshest fruit and vegetables. It also includes rides, competitions, demonstrations and food of all tastes (i.e. gourmet food as well as waffles, hot dogs, hot chips, sausage on a stick, cinnamon donuts, sausages, etc.) and styles.


Champion merino sheep at the Royal Adelaide Show

The first Show staged by South Australia's Agricultural Society (later called The Royal Agricultural & Horticultural Society) was held in the yard of Fordham's Hotel, in Grenfell Street, Adelaide, on 8 December 1840, a mere 4 years after South Australia's settlement in 1836. It was a produce show consisting of wool, wheat, oats, barley, maize, cheese, potatoes and onions and was non-competitive.

In 1843 the fourth produce show and the first livestock show was held. The two shows — the Autumn Produce Show and the Spring Livestock Show were held separately from 1843 to 1923.

February 1844 saw a combined show held under marquees and tents among the gum trees on the Frome Road side of Botanic Park, between the Hospital and the River Torrens. The Botanic Park site became an ever expanding display of marquees, stalls, booths and amusements until 1859. In 1852, the Show was cancelled because of "Gold Mania" in Victoria.[1]

A permanent exhibition building was built at a cost of £2,000 near the old marquee site and contained the largest floor area of any building in the Australian colonies. It was completed by the end of 1859 and was ready for the 1860 Autumn Show.

Sometime before July 1868 the Agricultural and Horticultural Society applied for, and received, patronage from Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh and was therefore entitled to use the epithet "Royal" for the Society.[2] Although in common use from around 1905, the first newspaper article to call an Adelaide Show "Royal" was in September 1918,[3] and it wasn't until July 1926 that the Society used it in an advertisement (as "Royal Spring Show").[4]

In 1887 the Government built the Jubilee Exhibition Building to celebrate the State's jubilee and the 50th year of Queen Victoria's reign. The Exhibition Building (now demolished) was located on North Terrace between Bonython Hall and the School of Mines (now UniSA) building on the Frome Road corner. The Show was first held there in 1895. In 1911 the Government purchased vacant land at Wayville West, but with the intervention of the First World War and with no funds to spare, the move to Wayville was not made until 1925.

In 1931 the newly formed Metropolitan branch of the Country Women's Association opened the Show Rest Room under the grandstand. Originally staffed by Mary Warnes and Dorothy Dolling, it provided an opportunity for country women to chat over a cup of tea as well as providing more basic human needs. During the Second World War the Showground were taken over by the Army, and the CWA rooms became the Officers' Mess, and weren't handed back until 1947. In 1948 the CWA took over Wilkinson's Tea kiosk, which became a major fundraiser for the organization, as well as boosting the CWA's reputation as the best scone makers in the State.[5]

The Show Today[edit]

Wood chopping is a popular spectator sport at the Royal Show. It celebrated 100 years in 2005.
Adelaide is one of the last shows to have a competitive pig section. Champion Berkshire boar 2005.

Today, the Royal Agricultural & Horticultural Society of South Australia organises the biggest community event in the State. The Royal Adelaide Show attracts almost half of the population of the entire State and even interstate and overseas visitors attend. The economic impact on the State is considerable with the latest study showing an annual economic impact of over (AU)$148 million.[6]


One of the most notable and well known aspects about the Show are the Showbags. They are usually bags that are sold in the Showbag Pavilion next to the Main Arena, and are mainly promotion for the companies that produce the products contained within the bag, although some Showbags contain a variety of products that are made by various companies.

Showbags originally started as a free sample bag that were given to visitors at the Show. As the original Showbags grew in popularity, they eventually ceased to be free and a small fee of threepence or sixpence applied to those who wished to have one.

View of the show in 2007.

Nowadays, a single Showbag can range from $1 to $40 depending on its contents and the company promoting it. The Showbags are mostly popular with young children and teenagers although there are some more contemporary showbags such as the Charlesworth Nuts and Darrell Lea Chocolates aimed at an adult market. The showbags range from things such as toys, magazines, and food.


The rides are extremely popular among young people and teenagers, many attending the Show for the single purpose of going on the rides. Some larger rides range in price from $5 to $20 (for the Speed 2 ride – photo $10 extra). The best known ride at the show is the Ferris wheel.

Sideshow alley in 2007. Thrill rides are further South (not shown).

In 2004, 'The Wine Tunnel' was introduced to showcase South Australia's Wines. There are tastings at The Wine Tunnel, which is located in the Taste SA! area, which also has cooking demonstrations and food samplings. The Wine Tunnel is generally popular with over 35s but younger adults also attend.

In 2000, the 'Spin Dragon' collapsed, injuring around 40 people,[7] whilst in 2006, part of the 'Twin Flip' ride collapsed.[8]

At the end of the 2007 Show on 15 September, the "Mad Mouse" roller coaster was retired from service. The track was dismantled, the cars auctioned off (one donated to the Royal Show's archives). It has been replaced with a large roller coaster, "The Big Dipper", imported from Italy. It features steep climbs and drops, as well a loop. It was very popular at the 2008 show, drawing record crowds. Other new additions for the 2008 show included a new logo (replacing Banjo the border collie dog, now features fireworks) and new rides. Two new rides introduced in 2014 were the Airmaxx 360 and the Freak Out.

On 12 September 2014, an eight-year-old girl died after slipping from her seat on the Airmaxx 360. The ride was cordoned off and shut down for inspection immediately after. It had operated at the Queensland show weeks before without incident and underwent daily checks by operators.[9]


Every night of the show (depending on the weather) at 9 pm, fireworks are released from the main arena. There are over 12,000 fireworks used each year and each year, it gets a little bit bigger.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Royal Adelaide Show - History". Royal Adelaide Show. Retrieved 17 April 2015. 
  2. ^ "Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society". South Australian Register (Adelaide: National Library of Australia). 4 July 1868. p. 2. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  3. ^ "September Royal Show". The Register (Adelaide: National Library of Australia). 5 August 1918. p. 6. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  4. ^ "Advertising.". The Advertiser (Adelaide: National Library of Australia). 14 July 1926. p. 3. Retrieved 1 December 2012. 
  5. ^ Parker, Heather The First Fifty Years South Australian Country Women's Association, Adelaide 1979 ISBN 0-9595800-0-X
  6. ^ What's Hot – Royal Adelaide Show Media Release
  7. ^ Collapse of the Spin Dragon in 2000
  8. ^ Collapse of the Twin Flip
  9. ^ 7 News story on the Airmaxx 360 incident