The first meeting of what is today known as the Geelong Agricultural & Pastoral Society Incorporated took place at the Masonic Hall, Geelong, on February 24, 1855. It was presided over by Horatio Spencer Howe Wills, a Sydney-born farmer and settler who had experienced the harsh inland summers and decided to help the immigrants to understand their new land. Spencer had established a model farm, 'Belle-Vue', at Point Henry, adjacent to the landing point for new arrivals.
The meeting resulted in the formation of the Geelong & Western District Agricultural and Horticultural Society. The first Geelong Show took place during the same year. It featured a ploughing competition and an exhibition of horticulture and livestock at the Immigration Depot, East Geelong. By early 1857 permanent grounds were secured south of the Botanical Gardens opposite the present Geelong High School. The western entrance to this site is still marked by the street Agricultural Place. The Society built a pavilion, destroyed by fire in 1864.
In 1861, Spencer and his family and workers, a total of 18 people, were killed by Aborigines on their farm near Rockhampton.
By 1891 the show moved to a 30 acre site adjacent to the current showgrounds. The grounds and new grandstand were opened by Governor Lord Hopetoun on 22 October 1891, despite the demolition of some of the buildings following a cyclone.
The founder Horatio Spencer Wills.
Did he and his family deserve their terrible and bloody death that 17th day of October 1855 in Rockhampton?
Today the Society has 60 councillors, in addition to staff and volunteers, who work to maintain a large venue for year-round events as well as the Show. The events include the Camel Cup Carnival, Geelong and District Kennel Club, the Western District Quarter Horse Association, the Garden Club Show and the Geelong Truck Show.
Geelong Agricultural and Pastoral Society website http://www.geelongshow.org.au