On 13 August 1875 a group of citizens met at the Brisbane Town Hall and formed the National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland. The Association was conceived as a national organization representing all aspects of Queensland society. This was reflected in the makeup of the first Council, which included graziers, merchants, lawyers and a teacher.
Bowen Park was chosen as a site for showgrounds in January 1876. It consisted of 6.8 ha., bounded by Bowen Bridge Rd and Gregory Tce. A creek ran through the centre of the present Main Arena and Sideshow Alley. By March of that year 1,000 pounds had already been donated for improvements to the park. The first show was called 'The Intercolonial Exhibition of of 1876' and was held from 22 to 26 August. Admission was fixed at 2/6 for adults for the first half of the show and one shilling thereafter. A public holiday was declared and the show proved a triumph. On the opening day alone 17,000 people attended, at a time when Brisbane's population was only 22,000.
The showgrounds quickly became the centre of Brisbane's social activities. Musical and drama groups, as well as cricket and other sporting organizations, organized performances and games there.
The Association suffered a major blow in 1887 when its main pavilion was destroyed by fire. A brick building, equipped with a massive pipe organ, was subsequently built on the corner of Bowen Bridge Rd and Gregory Tce. It became the main Exhibition Building and was home to grand social occasions including the Governor's Ball. It later served as the Brisbane Museum. In 1899 the Association's Council handed to site to the Government to deal with financial difficulties.
The show has been held continuously since 1876, except for 1919, during the influenza pandemic, and in 1942, during World War II, when the showgrounds were used as a staging depot for troops moving north. The first actual 'Royal Brisbane Show' was held in 1921, when the Association was granted the prefix 'Royal' under warrant from His Majesty King George V.
The showgrounds today encompass an area of 22 ha. The Royal Queensland Show is now called 'Ekka'.
The Association today aims to promote and encourage the development of and interest in the agricultural, pastoral, horticultural, industrial, manufacturing and cultural resources of the State of Queensland; promote knowledge and awareness of and pride in the agricultural, pastoral, horticultural, industrial, manufacturing and cultural activities and achievements of the State and public interest and participation in the promotion and improvement of those activities and achievements; hold exhibitions and other shows for the display of the products, activities and achievements of the State, and of other States or countries, in all their forms; hold field competitions relating to those products, activities and achievements; promote and encourage improvements in skills of all kinds; promote and encourage improvement in the breeding and use of all kinds of plants, animals, birds and fish; promote and encourage improvement in design, manufacture and application of all types of machinery and equipment; award prizes, certificates, trophies, scholarships and bursaries; and encourage educational or scientific research in all matters.
Royal Queensland Show website http://www1.ekka.com.au/about/history.html
Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland.