The Castle Hill Show began in the 1880s as a sports and ploughing contest known as the Castle Hill Sports Show Day, with rivalry keen among the local families. By 1886 the sports day had expanded and adopted a distinctly agricultural feel with displays of fruit, vegetables and other farm produce. These areas would compete for the prestigious ‘Best in the District’ Certificate. Horses, poultry and dogs were judged and events were held for hacks, draught horses, trotting, buggy and cart horses. A highlight of the day was the family picnic held under the trees.
In 1887 a Show Committee was formed and the following year two thousand people attended the show. Many would travel by horse and buggy from the surrounding districts to the North West just to see the show and by 1889 Easter Monday was well established as Show Day. By 1890 the Show had incorporated competitive sections for horses, poultry, fruit, vegetables, dogs and needlework. It was also around this time that discussions arose around finding a permanent home for the Show and by December 1889 plans had been submitted to the Chief Surveyor for an area of 35 acres, 2 rods and 36 perches. An area was re-dedicated for the express purpose of holding the Show on July 30, 1890.
1891 saw the first Show on its current home of the Castle Hills Showground off Showground Road. This land was granted to the Show Society for the purpose of a permanent home for the Castle Hill Show.
Families would wear their very best cloths to the Show and the purchase of watermelons would remain a major activity in the 1950s. During the First World War the Show continued to grow, with more sections and exhibits being added to the programme. More buildings were constructed on the showground and displays of horsemanship, sound breeding and careful grooming were joined by motor cars and mechanised farm equipment. In 1927 a Ladies Committee was formed to review the preserves, needlework and flower sections. These Committees worked hard, devoting time and energy, to raising funds for overhead expenses, particularly during the depression years.
With the outbreak of the Second World War there was a gradual decline in activities, with a complete lapse from 1941 – 1945. During this period the Showground was occupied by Victorian Ambulance Brigades, part of the Australian Army. The show re-opened for Easter 1946 to record crowds. From the late 1940s the Show had the reputation of being second only to the Sydney Royal Easter Show, opening two weeks prior to it. Apart from being a display of the produce and activities of the Hills District, it was a reflection of the life of the community.
In the 1960s due to increases in expenditure, the Show Society Trustees resigned in favour of the Baulkham Hills Shire Council, this led to further progress and modernisation of the facilities, with the Harvey Lowe Pavilion opened in 1966. The Taylor District Exhibition Pavilion was converted to a theatre and permanent home for The Castle Hill Players in 1965 – and they still perform there today.
Today the Show combines tradition with contemporary entertainment, with the focus on agriculture, animals, arts and crafts as well as the always popular Side Show Alley.
With such an important history it’s difficult to believe that the Castle Hill Show and the Showground itself is under threat. Unless the Show Society can raise funds, there will be no Castle Hill Show in 2017. With the Hills Shire Council’s dissolving of the Showground Committee, which resulted in the council handing the hiring of buildings to other groups, the committee has had to start eating into reserves to cover falling gate takings at the Show. Other issues also revolve around the development of the North-West Rail Link, which has seen a reduction of land use and the uncertainty of the Showground’s future with the White Paper on Crown Lands under discussion.
In an effort to keep the Show going a Go Fund Me Campaign has been created to help fund the 2017 Show. Every little bit helps to support this important piece of Australian history, donations can be made through Go Fund Me.