The first Jamestown Show was held on Wednesday October 13, 1875, with an attendance of about 800. This was only four years after the district was opened up for closer settlement, and the town of Jamestown was established. The Show was staged over multiple venues with the inside exhibits being in a building near the current Jamestown Medical Centre, horses and cattle in Hotel yards on the site of Boston’s Ford Dealership, with horses in action on the adjacent parklands
The organising body was the Belalie Agricultural Society (name changed to Jamestown Agricultural, Horticultural and Floricultural Society, in the 1950’s) . with the purpose of conducting “annually at Jamestown, shows for the competitive display of all varieties of agricultural, dairy, and pastoral produce, cookery, needlework, art and craft work, school displays, etc”.
The second show in 1876, was held in similar venues, however from 1877 until 1879, the newly constructed Institute (now the Memorial Hall), was used for the inside exhibits, and the parklands for external exhibits.
In 1880, the Society purchased a little over 4 acres of land on the site of the current Worm’s Mitre 10 store, and conducted Shows on that site for 18 years, with attendances of 2,000 to 3,000 people. No permanent structures were erected on that site, however semi-permanent timber skeletons were erected, which were covered with tarpaulins on Show-Days.
In 1898, a decision was made to permanently shift the Show to its current venue: Victoria Park, a ten acre portion of which was initially leased for a 21 year period. The move was an immediate success, in that within two years the attendance had trebled to 9,000 people attending the Annual Show. This enabled the Society to erect many permanent structures on Victoria Park, including the western end of Stacey Pavilion (early 1900’s), original Grandstand (1908), original Roundhouse Booth (1914), Luncheon Pavilion (part of current Table Tennis Centre) (1921), Sheep Pavilion (1925), Poultry Pavilion and east of Stacey Pavilion (1928).
The 1920’s were the golden years of the Show Society, with two day Shows held from 1921 until 1930. In 1925, the Show had total assets of 10,000 pounds, and had the largest membership (500) of any country Show Society. In this period the Labour Day holiday was the second Wednesday in October, with that day being the major Showday, with attendances of 12,000 people. On the Tuesday, when most of the judging occurred, there were 3,000-4,000 in attendance.
2017 will see a return to a two day Show, with most of the judging occurring on the Sunday prior to the main Show-day on the Monday Labour Day Holiday.
A feature of the first 70 years of Jamestown Shows were the running of special trains from both Pt Pirie in the west and Peterborough to the east, bringing Show patrons from those towns and the other towns along the route to the Jamestown Show. These ceased in 1950, as more people acquired their own motor vehicles
Since 1909, the Jamestown Show has been held on the Labour Day holiday, which has varied in timing from the second Wednesday in October to the second Monday in October, to the current first Monday in October.
For many years, the Jamestown Show ran a very successful Trotting Programme, with up to three trots at each Show. The fence around the trotting track on the outer edge of the Oval, was lined by most of the Show patrons. During the early 1990’s the trotting programme ceased.
Over the past 45 years, the Jamestown Show has organised a different feature for each of its annual Shows. The features have ranged from purely Agricultural ones like Sheep and Wool, to ones like Forestry, featuring Bundaleer Forest to Computing or Home Gardening. In addition the Cattle Committee have generally had a Feature Breed, which varied from Show to Show
Since the 1920’s, when the Jamestown Show had attendances over two days of up to 16,000 people, attendances have varied at lower levels. During the 1950’s and 1960’s average attendances were about 10,000 people attending the one day Show. Since that time, as farm sizes have got larger, and hence rural population has been in decline, attendances have dropped to 5,000-6,000. Peak gate takings were achieved at the 2013 Show with $27,600 taken at the gate.