The History of the Kaniva Agricultural & Pastoral Society goes back many years, commencing in 1884. It is the oldest surviving community group in Kaniva.
A meeting of interested people was held on May 10th 1884, in the Commercial Hotel in Kaniva to consider forming The A & P Society. At this meeting it was decided that a Society would be formed and be named the Kaniva and Lillimur Agricultural and Pastoral Society. After several meetings, the appointment of Committees, and Stewards, Judges and a Ground Committee, all was ready for the First Kaniva and Lillimur Agricultural and Pastoral Society Show on 3rd Sept, 1884. Sections in the show included Draught Stock, Blood Stock, Cattle, Sheep, Pigs, Grain, Crop Competitions, Dogs, Buggies and Wagons, Saddlery, Machinery, Dairy Produce, Poultry, Vegetables, Flowers and Preserves. They would have liked to have included more sections but prize money was limited. It was reported that the Stallions were a credit to the district and a Mr Hoskings brought machinery incurring great expense and over bad roads from Horsham and another gentleman exhibited various types of horseshoes, stuffed reptiles and a rug of many colours made out of cat skins. After the show, sixty men sat down to a show dinner and after appropriate speeches a crowd gathered for a concert in the Institute Hall, then this was followed by a ball.
The 1886 show was attended by between 1,500 to 2,000 people and some had come from Nhill by a special train. In 1886 some land in Kaniva was developed especially for the show and buildings, fences and yards erected for an annual show and Lillimur did the same. The name Kaniva and Lillimur Agricultural and Pastoral Society was used until it became apparent that a division between the two towns was too difficult to manage as they both had their own Society. After several heated and argumentative meetings of 80 to 100 men, it was moved that they each go their own way, Lillimur falling prey to the 1890s break in the land boom and subsequent depression. Kaniva only just managing to pull through. In the early years the Kaniva and Lillimur A & P Society were financially strained and were continually trying to raise money to continue. Following this most Lillimur residents on the show committee resigned and these differences took about 10 years to heal.
Each year a couple more sections were added to the show with fancy work, equestrian, honey, and Publican’s booths as well as a fruit stall and refreshment booth. Also the local band was asked to play on show day. They also had a ‘Ploughing Match’ and Horse parades. By the 1900s, flower arrangements, cooking, art and even numerous side shows were mentioned, as well as a competition for the sweetest baby boy came into the program. Children’s sections were introduced and calligraphy and other writing was of very high standard. Some of the names in the show committee and entrants in those early years were Wallis, Crouch, Meyer, Champness, Powell, Webb, Stephens, Coutts, Hicks, Williams, Goldsworthy, Miles, Meagher, all names familiar with older residents of Kaniva today. The Salvation Army were doing the catering for the show luncheons and the standard of the Merino Sheep in the show would soon mean Kaniva District make a name for itself for the quality of their sheep. For the first time, in September 1906 Sheep Dog Trials were held and of course these have continued on until the 2020s.
In 1923 it was reported by the Judges at the Kaniva Show, that entries in the Pavilion were the finest of any in the Wimmera Shows, quite a feather in the caps of Kaniva show exhibitors. Introduced to the local shows over the years too were Musical items, the boxing tents, Highland and other dancing on the back of wagons and impromptu stages. It also became known that the Kaniva Ladies were making a striking appearance at the Kaniva Show with spring millinery and handsome new gowns and were said to be always to the fore in regard to smart costumes and lingerie making them look distinguished in gatherings of ladies in Western Lowan.
The Kaniva District has often been referred to as “Victoria’s Garden of Eden” with rich grazing and cropping land, as many crops and pastures flourished in this area when other areas struggled. Horses have always played a large part in the Kaniva A & P Society Shows as far back as 1886 when horse parades were held right up to the end of the 1930s. Of course horses played a huge part in everyday life and the development of the area as they pulled ploughs, strippers, wagons, drays for carting, buggies for families to ride in and almost every task around the farms. Horses were and still are exhibited with great distinction at every Kaniva Show. There was even a ‘Guess the weight of the Stallion’ in the early years. The Shows continued over the years with some years more profitable than others, the same as today. It depended on how the weather was and whether the season was a good one or whether it was a drought.
1933 was the Jubilee Show (the 50th Show). It was a very successful show with the usual horse events, cattle, sheep, motor cars, machinery, poultry, grain, dairy produce, cookery, preserves, fruit and farm produce, vegetables, flowers, pot plants, and miscellaneous. As well as the Horsham Pipe Band and the Kaniva Brass band and all entries were a record and Kaniva had the largest show in the Wimmera that year. A large grand parade led by Messrs John Coutts, Oliver Webb, and J&J Potts all on horseback mirrored the prosperity and soundness of the district.
In 1939, at the outbreak of World War 2, saw a decrease in the number of machinery exhibits but a record number of entries, 63, in 'Crop and Fallow' competition ensured that the Kaniva area were still recognised as good cropping area. There was a great display of homemade lollies and the cookery section was very successful too. In 1940 Nhill A & P Society abandoned their show and after a lengthy debate at a meeting the Kaniva Show was called off too, but after another special meeting the local Sheep Show would still go ahead. Petrol rationing was the major cause of giving the day away. In 1941 the local Chamber of Commerce convinced the show committee to let the Kaniva Show go ahead as they were afraid the Nhill Show would take over the area and Kaniva Show had a reputation of having a better show than Nhill. The next few years while the war was on saw the luncheon money and other fund raising efforts being donated to the War Workers Committee. The crowds were down but many local young men had gone to serve their country. Wood chopping events were introduced as well as the CWA branches competing, Photography and a trotting event for the first time as well as the usual horse events. By the end of the war, the show society were talking about alterations to the oval and renovations or new show buildings around the arena.
1946 saw the Ladies Committee being formed and this helped in revision of the schedule and to arrange judges for the different classes in the pavilion. As well as work towards improvements in the pavilion. The Shows struggled for a few years until 1950 when over 3000 people turned up for the Kaniva Show. With large number of entries in Scottish Dancing being a popular attraction, a rodeo with bucking horses and cowboys as well as the reintroduction of machinery and the pavilion had sponsorship from Kelloggs who gave a special prize for cooking using their products and recipes.
1953 was the Coronation year and this saw special medals being presented to the children winning events. Marion Etherton received one in Cookery and Trevor and Elaine Meyer and Jill Allitt in riding events. There were 65 entries in the woodchop events that year.
1954 saw the Ladies Committee responsible for a large glass enclosed case in the pavilion, 24ft long by 3ft high and 2ft deep. We still use this glass case today although it has be transferred to the new pavilion.
1955 saw the introduction of the Matron and Queen of the Show, which then continued for many years as did Crop competitions, Champion Cow, Grand Champion Ram and Ewe, The Equestrian events, Champion Fleeces, Grain, Poultry Champions, and Pavilion entries. Always trying to bring new and interesting exibitions to the show in 1958 there was a performing pony, a special exhibition of budgerigars, a model aeroplane display and for a few years a micro midget car racing event was held.
In 1962 a shearing competition was introduced as well as a welding competition. The Show Society had already supported a shearing school and 1962 saw A Wool Classing School being conducted by the Show Society. The young school leaves in the district nearly all participated in these schools. 1963 saw the beginning of moves to build a new community oval and a Demonstration of Tally-Hi shearing by the Australian and World Champion Shearer Kevin Sarre, was a highlight of the show and in then the next year saw 251 entries in the horse and pony events.
1965 was the first show on the new oval, so changes were made to the placement of many sections including Machinery and side shows, poultry pens and the shearing competition and other booths around the ground. The new oval meant that many people were able to view the action in the ring while seated in their cars.
1966 saw the A & P Society, Football Club, Cricket Club, Adelphian Tennis Club (all users of the Recreation Reserve) together with the Junior Chamber of Commerce arrange an Autumn Show on the Recreation Reserve. The proceeds of which were to go towards the erection of sewered conveniences for all organisations that use the reserve. A tiny tot competition attracted 56 entrants and so this encouraged the society to include this in their schedule from then on.
1967 saw the introduction of A Pet Show which in turn introduced the Animal Nursery. 1971 saw a record 525 birds entered in the ‘Poultry’ Section and this was still a record by the end of 1984 and would be today. 1974 two ladies attended a meeting at Minyip to form a ladies committee of the Wimmera and so the Wimmera Agricultural Societies Association was formed. 1976 saw the end of the Shearing Competition for a while as pressure from the Shearers Union brought this popular event to an end.
1977 saw the dog trials reintroduced and as well it was decided that 5 articles in special sections would be selected to go to the Wimmera Agricultural Societies Association to be further judged for the best in the region. These included a Fruit Cake, A Loaf of Bread, A Hand Knitted Article, A Machine Made article and a Crocheted Article. This eventually brought about the VAS and WASA entries in Regional Sections of the Shows. These 5 Sections are still in VAS and WASA and other sections have been introduced.
Over the years in nearly all sections and classes in Kaniva A and P Society Show, entries have declined as well as the side shows and trade exhibitions and the population of Kaniva and District. The ‘Baby Boomers’ babies born after the war and from about 1948 to 1952/3 having to leave the district for work or to further their education to be eligible for university degrees in the various professions in this ever competing world of the increasing populations is one of the reasons for the population decline.
To help improve the attractions at the local show, for some years now, we make use the Community Sporting Complex for the Art and Photography Sections as well as displays from locals who have homemade products, hobbies and other small traders show their wares for sale or display, as well as encouraging others to take an interest in taking up these crafts or hobbies. The school now has a large display of students work in the Complex for interested parents, Grandparents and friends to see their loved ones work. The hard working committees and support from local businesses and other supporters in the district has made sure the local show continues to prosper and every year an interesting and successful show is put forward for the public to come out for the day and enjoy the entertainment. With the Kaniva A & P Society Committee we currently have this success will continue for many years to come.
Many thanks to Maree van Kempen for this Show history, based on the book Victoria's Garden of Eden by Bruce Meyer
Kaniva, first and last highway town in Victoria. Gateway to the Wimmera Mallee Silo Art Trail. Home of Sheep Art.
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