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A Show of Memories

Since 1951, the Darwin Show has delighted Territorians and visitors with its exhibits and a fun spread of family entertainment. Exciting levels of energy are being channelled into next month’s big event, as Royal Darwin Show gears up for its 70th anniversary.

By Tierney White

What are your Show memories? Still got that sideshow alley plush toy you won back in the 60s? Or proudly displaying that ribbon you scored for entering Mum’s never-fail scone recipe in the baking competition? Royal Darwin Show is calling on you to share your memories to commemorate this year’s huge milestone event with a trip down memory lane.

Richard Allen Snell was on board from the very early days. His son, Mike, responded to the Show’s call out for memories and fondly recalls his father’s involvement.

“My father, Richard Allen Snell, was a member of the Maranga & Districts Progress Association, I believe he was Secretary. The next year, 1952, it became the North Australia Show Society and the show moved to the current location,” he says. 

Royal Darwin Show“He was a proud operator of the Chair-O-Plane ride and would ask about it every time I visited him until he passed away in 2016.”

A quick call out on the Darwin History and Old Darwin Facebook groups, and the memories of the Chair-O-Plane are alive and well.

Dirk comments, “you mean chunder chairs,” to which Sue replies, “I still remember throwing up while riding on it when about six-years-old, and the crowd all moved backwards together. Never got on it again!”. Marion remembers, “my favourite ride as a child,” and Michelle agrees, “it was my favourite ride at the Show. Loved it!”

There’s no denying the nostalgic sense of excitement you get when you go to the Show. The smell of hot cinnamon donuts, a mass of bodies moving through the Dry season heat from stall to stall, the animals, and the gleeful – at times, terrified – squeals of children on the show rides.

These are the sure-fire indicators that you’re at the Show, set for one, two or three days of feeling like a kid again, catching up with friends.

The heritage of the Darwin Show can be tracked further back to 1905 when the Northern Agricultural, Horticultural and Industrial Society held its exhibition in the Old Town Hall. It wasn’t until the success of the Darwin Exhibition in 1951 that the organising committee set about making it an annual event.

In 1963, it became the Royal Darwin Show when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was presented with a bouquet during the opening ceremony. The final Territory orchid was placed in Royal Darwin Showher bouquet just after midnight, the ladies needing to wake in just a few hours to take their place in the pavilions before the crowds arrived. 

Royal Darwin Show CEO Cherry Court has been involved for over 20 years, and hopes the Top End community keeps those nostalgic vibes rolling in.

“We did a call out for our 50th and 60th, and organisations like ours, to some extent, are the keepers of tradition and history. One reason we call for memories is because … there are many people who contribute to it in different ways – it’s interesting to look back and see how many have been involved,” she says.

“Many people have had a long association with Darwin and the wider Northern Territory. They like to share their stories and these become part of the history. People love to read it, as well as tell it. It’s that connectedness, too. We as parents with our children, our parents, who are now grandparents – that connectedness through a long line of family and community. People look back nostalgically, and it was all quite simple and they were feeling good.

“It’s that longevity, too. Events have to change often, but certain elements of the Show remain the same – the history, competitions and entertainment are the backbones of agricultural shows. People want to keep these traditions. You can do what your parents or grandparents did, and can still go along and see a prize stud bull or cuddle a fluffy duck. I’m sure people will love that nostalgia when they look back.”

If you’ve got fond memories of going to the Show, possibly memories of bringing your own children or your children’s children along for the ride, take a delightful trip down memory lane.

Submit Your Memories

Entries Now Open!
Calling all Territory talent to be involved with the 70th Royal Darwin Show. Whether you’re into arts and crafts, dogs and cattle, or baking and horses, you’re invited to show your skills at the Show. There’s some great prizes and cash up for grabs, as well as the prestigious Show awards.

Thumbnail image and top: 1951 Maranga & Districts Progress Association Exhibition. Photo: Richard Allen Snell
Bottom: Queen Elizabeth II pictured with Eric Roberts, President of the Royal Agricultural Show Society of the NT, at the 1963 Royal Darwin Show
Header: Library & Archives NT. Chair-O-Plane Ride, Boyce, Thomas, 1956, PictureNT, Denise Garside Collection, PH0803/0046,

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