Reporting on the first district show at Moss Vale in 1884, the Moss Vale Scrutineer described the fine pavilion and the excellence of the exhibits.
It went on to report that "Master Frank Throsby, who rode Mr Lackey's pony, in the best pony and turn-out contest was perfect as a rider while his outfit of breaches and boots was unique. He is about 12 years of age and his equal as a rider would be hard to find."
"Sideshows, such as circuses, are no doubt necessary, but next year it would be well for the committee to put these people in a more secluded part of the grounds" the Scrutineer suggested.
The first show was a financial success for the Berrima District Show Society with income of £528 offset against expenditure of £370, most of which had been spent on the construction of the weatherboard pavilion and horse stalls.
Over the following years the Society had a mixture of many good but some difficult experiences often influenced by the fluctuating nature of the weather - drought some years and torrential rain in others.
The Moss Vale Showground was the focal point for local celebrations of Australia's Centenary year in 1888 with athletic events in the main arena and a ball in the pavilion.
During the first 10 years there were numerous improvements to the ground including wings on the pavilion for a luncheon room, publican's booth and secretary's office; the cattle yards were constructed, the parade ring enlarged, a ticket office constructed and the latrines improved.
The society quickly established itself as one of the leading agricultural societies in NSW and had repaid its overdraft by 1897.
The Society's progress prompted another generous gesture from the Throsby family who had made available the land at a low rental. Mr F H Throsby offered the Showground for sale to the Society asking £33 per acre for the 12-acre site. He also offered an additional six acres on the Bowral side of the site for a combined price of £30 per acre.
Although it meant going into debt again, the Society quickly accepted Mr Throsby's offer. The decision proved to be one of the most valuable moves made during the Society's history. It enabled the Society to borrow against the value of the land as well as giving it independence from a landlord or Government authority.
In November 1903 Sir John Lackey died. He had been president since 1883. He was replaced by Mr John Badgery, one of the original founders of the Society.
New records were set in 1904 for attendance and takings and a credit balance was again achieved and the bank mortgage substantially reduced. A major building program was undertaken that included a new grandstand, dining room, publican's booth, pig sties, poultry and dog boxes, improvements to the horse paddocks and two new refreshment booths.
Despite the annual subsidy by the Government being withdrawn during the years of World War 1, the 1916 Show turned out to be one of the most successful in the Society's 33 year history, ending a frustrating run of poor shows that started in 1909. Mr Frank Throsby replaced Mr Henry Kater as Society president.
Trotting returned to local shows at the start of 1918 when the military authorities lifted their embargo on trotting races, which was good news as the races were a major attraction.
Scarlet fever caused the first abandonment of a Berrima District Show in 1919. The epidemic struck the district with ferocity restricting such functions as public gatherings and meetings.
The following year the Society bounced back to start a remarkable period of success that was to last until 1930.
The 1920 Show was acclaimed to be the most successful since the Society's inception, and one of the most popular country shows in the state.
In 1921 the Society's first Show Ball was held at Mack's Theatre Royal in Moss Vale and the Girls and Bachelors' Committee held their first ball on New Year's Eve in the Show pavilion (these continued until 1983).
In 1924 a record attendance and more than 300 motor vehicles jammed into the Showground resulted in a healthy profit.
A new pavilion was built in 1928 to replace the original building that had been standing since 1884 together with its various extensions and wings that had been added during the years.
* This article is sourced from the archives of Berrima District Historical & Family History Society, Bowral Rd, Mittagong.
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