Every year for a week in September, the Claremont showgrounds open its gates to thousands of fun-seekers for the Perth Royal Show. This year, the Cook government is spending $1.9 million on the show, run by the Royal Agricultural Society of WA, to keep the experience affordable and promote education about agriculture in WA.
For city people, the Royal Show is a day of entertainment, adrenaline and sugar overdosing. For many WA farmers, the show is an annual chance to showcase livestock and produce, and to compete to be recognized as best in their field.
The show first opened in 1834 as the Annual Fair and Cattle Show. The first show held on the current showgrounds in Claremont boasted 30,000 attendees, according to the Royal Agricultural Society of WA, and it has grown to host over 350,000 people annually.
At its inception, the show was designed predominantly as an agricultural showcase, hence the name. However, as the show has grown and the interests of its attendees have changed, it has moved away from being agricultural-focused to more heavily promoting its side shows, theme park rides and showbag choices.
Many organisations, particularly rural ones such as the Country Women’s Association of WA, have been attending for decades, and as CWA WA chief executive Trish Langdon said, exhibitors now have to work to adapt and change as society changes.
Ms Langdon said the opportunity for rural communities to come together to compete each year, as well as continuing agricultural education are still important for country organisations, and are reasons that keep the CWA coming back to exhibit.
“We educate and advocate, to try and raise awareness on behalf of others,” she said.
Media releases from the state government emphasise refocusing the show on its agricultural roots. The Premier, Roger Cook, has said the state government’s $1.9 million funding package aims to help families enjoy the show during the cost-of-living crisis, as well as support the show as an agricultural showcase.
RASWA spokesperson Josh Duane said additional government funding will predominantly go towards keeping ticket prices affordable amid the show’s overall rising production costs. This year’s adult tickets will be $28.50 each, the same price as early release tickets in 2019. A family of four can get in for $60 and children under four enter free.
He said: “The Show brings together the WA community – with 6000 hours of volunteer time… and importantly the community learns more about our farming and food industries.”