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History highlights rise and fall of Gladstone Show

The Circus Fun House.
The Circus Fun House.

PRINCESSES, pigs and popcorn. As a kid growing up in the 1930s, the Gladstone Show was the stuff of childhood dreams.

For seven days in June each year, the town would come alive with the lights of a thousand colours illuminating the roads in the same way industry does now.

Crowds were out in their droves, dressed to the nines inviting one week of frivolity and celebration into their daily routines.

An air of excitement hovered over the showground, what is now the Presbyterian Church on the corner of Goondoon and Bramston Sts.

Historian Paulette Flint talks about the progression of the Gladstone Show over the decades.

"At the show itself, Sideshow Alley sported many attractions in 1939, including a Giant and his midget bride," she said.

"Dennis O'Duffy, the world's tallest man stood at 8 feet 5 inches (2.56m) while his bride stood only at 3ft (0.9m)."

As Mrs Flint describes, the 1930s era was arguably the peak of the show's history since its conception in 1888.

"The show, the 52nd of its kind... featured a new dog and poultry pavilion which was described as a 'fine and commodious building'. It was also the first year to feature woodchopping."

The parade lap.
The parade lap.

The history behind Gladstone Show reveals several examples of the rise and fall in popularity and social engagement in the Gladstone Show, the first collapse occurring after nine years in 1897.

Revived in 1904 by the Port Curtis Agricultural, Pastoral and Mining Association, the Gladstone Show quickly excelled in success.

Numbers attending the show from year to year steadily grew and it became evident a change of location was necessary.

Hence, the Gladstone Show was relocated to its present site, along Dawson Rd, in 1906. The landmark grandstand was erected in 1910, and stood regally until the 1949 cyclone caused significant damage.

Mrs Flint said the town would morph each year, with an air of whimsical fun.

"In the early years, show time in Gladstone was regarded as carnival time, with many attractions around town in addition to the show itself," she said.

AS WE WERE: Gladstone Show has always been a crowd-pleaser.
AS WE WERE: Gladstone Show has always been a crowd-pleaser.

"Mack's World Varieties held a four-night season in a marquee theatre erected opposite the Queens Hotel... George Sorlie also brought his show which was held in a marquee further down Goondoon St."

Sole Brothers Circus aligned their visit in time to be met with the crowds flocking to the Gladstone Show.

Local cinemas also provided entertainment to enhance the carnival atmosphere, according to Mrs Flint.

"And if these entertainments were not enough for the locals, a series of dances were held during the week."

The Gladstone Show, this year celebrating its 122nd birthday, will be held on Wednesday.

Timeline:

  • 1888: The Gladstone Show was born
  • 1897: The show lapses
  • 1906: Location for the Gladstone Show is changed to present venue
  • 1910: Grandstand is built
  • 1915: First camp drafting event held
  • 1950s: The Show Queen was crowned for the first time
  • 1960: Cattle yards open
  • 1961: First night show held

Topics:  agricultural show, community event, gladstone show, history



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