Rand Show cel­e­brates 120th

Sunday World - - Opinion -

Y first trip to the Rand Show was 33 years ago as a young urchin itch­ing for mis­chief.

I was 14 and look­ing for trou­ble. Board­ing school life was bor­ing and a few mates and I de­cided to go see the show, which was held where Wits Univer­sity s West Cam­pus is to­day.

There was no way the board­ing school mas­ter would have given us per­mis­sion to go, so we sneaked out in the wee hours.

We had no cent to our name, so we hitch­hiked. I re­mem­ber walk­ing with my jaw al­most on the floor, amazed at all the rides and other cool stuff.

Twenty seven years later, I re­turned to the show, now at Nas­rec.

I met a very old man with an ice cream cone in his hand and look­ing as be­daz­zled as I was dur­ing my first visit.

Beau­ti­ful, in­nit?” I ven­tured. He looked at me and smiled with his eyes sparkling like Cham­pagne.

He must have been about 90, all wrinkly and bow-legged.

Amaz­ing,” he said, not tak­ing his eyes off me. It wasn t al­ways as big as this.”

It is said that the first Rand Show of 1894 wasn t quite the en­ter­tain­ment spec­tac­u­lar it is to­day.

Ini­tially it was just a dis­play of hor­ti­cul­ture, but in a town that was barely 10 years old, the oc­ca­sion caused quiet a stir.

Any­body who was some­body had to be seen there.

The brain­child of the Wit­wa­ter­srand Agri­cul­tural So­ci­ety, the 1894 event, held at the Wan­der­ers Club, saw lo­cal hor­ti­cul­tur­ists show­ing off their green thumbs with dis­plays of plants, flow­ers, fruit, ta­ble ar­range­ments, posies and gar­den­ing equip­ment.

His­tory has it that Paul Kruger, the pres­i­dent of the Transvaal Repub­lic at the time, opened the show that year.

Thou­sands de­scended on the show­grounds, where dis­plays of live­stock, poul­try, dairy prod­ucts, bees, or­na­men­tal plants and trees, farm­ing equip­ment, and wag­ons and coaches awaited them.

In the decades that fol­lowed, the Rand Show added man­u­fac­tur­ing and in­dus­trial dis­plays.

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