ON M onday, w e carried a s tory about the pos sibility that the Royal Sho wgrounds ma y r elocate at some point.
When I heard about this initially, I was really sad. The showgrounds are such an integral part of Maritzburg that it would be the end of an er a, wouldn’t it ? Here’s your his tory le sson for today. According t o the Piet ermaritzburg Royal A gricultural Societ y, the societ y was formed in 1851 and hos ted its first show, The Pietermaritzburg Fair, next to the Market Square behind the cit y hall on Dec ember 2 3 that y ear.
“Although heavy and per sistent rain continued thr oughout, the or ganising committee remained undaunted.” Good for them! T hat’s the spirit.
With the e xception of the w ar years and the Bambatha Rebellion, the society, they say, has held a show every year since. That’s quit e a f eat.
In 1 902, the y moved t o the pr esent showgrounds location w hich gr ew in size to its present size of approximately 18 hect ares.
Now you know. And it’s rather fascinating. T hey’ve been ther e f or o ver a century.
Imagine ho w man y people ha ve passed through the gates. Imagine your grandparents and gr eat-grandparents going ther e f or whatever r eason.
Situated w here the y ar e, the sho wgrounds are one of those anchor points in the city. So much happens there. It’s the city’s playground for adults and chil- dren alike. It’s associated with funfairs, entertainment, cand yfloss, doughnut s, flowers and sor e f eet.
Thinking about this unleashed a flood of memorie s. We’ve been t o so man y events ther e over so man y years, fr om serious business meetings to the pomp and ceremony of the opening of the KZN Legislature and banquets we’ve toffed up for, and we’ve also togged up in our most comfortable shoes to tramp the grounds flat at Royal Shows and Garden Shows. We’ve been t o man y Piet ermaritzburg Chamber of B usiness meeting s ther e, had the priz e-givings f or The Witness True Stories of KZN there, been to business relays and even to proper jorls there.
Who r emembers the eightie s’ p arty a few years back, where we danced like mad in our 40s t o the song s we loved in our t eens?
Who didn’ t f eel the nos talgia that night as the deej ay blas ted Bill y I dol, Madness and Depeche Mode? We must have looked ridiculous dressed up in our eighties’ gear, but we felt great and when it got too hot inside the hall, w e went out into the coolness of the grounds and heard the trickle of the s tream in the background between the thump, thump, thump of the music inside.
Many of us r emembered holding hands sh yly with our fir st bo yfiends (that was a t ypo, and looking b ack at it and having a chuckle, I’ve decided to leave it. It’s rather apt!), walking around the sho wgrounds hoping w e w ouldn’t bump into a t eacher or a friend of our parents.
As young teens, my mother had t wo rules about the Royal Show for my four sisters and I. We were never allowed to go on the rides, for fear we’d get smashed to smithereens, and we were not allowed to go at night, for fear the “bad crowd” would suck us in, f or that’s when they frequented the sho w.
She would leave the antics of the “bad crowd” up to our imagination, and I remember being both t errified and fascinated b y the thought of them.
To this da y, I ha ve ne ver been on a roller c oaster. W hen m y bo yfriends asked me back then to go on a ride with them, m y s tandard ans wer w as that I wasn’t allo wed t o. W hat a fun dat e I must have been. But I have stuck to that and it’s s till my e xcuse.
And the cold! Many of us have never been as cold as we have been at the showgrounds near the river as dusk fell in winter. Big c oats, scarf s and blue nose s. That’s winter show-time fashion for you.
And who hasn’t got lost at the show? It’s half the fun, wandering around losing y our bearing s in a saf e plac e.
For those of us who’ve lived in the city for many years, the sho wgrounds have been an int egral part of our li ves here. They are a p art of the char acter of the capital.
We drive past them all the time, w e go t o them. And w e’re pr obably quit e nostalgic about them. Well, I’ve discovered that I c ertainly am.