Showground memories

2018-12-10 12:31
One of the buildings at the Royal Showgrounds.

One of the buildings at the Royal Showgrounds. (Royal Agricultural Society Website)

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On Monday, we carried a story about the possibility that the Royal Showgrounds may relocate 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 era, wouldn’t it?

Here’s your history lesson for today.

According to the Pietermaritzburg Royal Agricultural Society, the society was formed in 1851 and hosted its first show, The Pietermaritzburg Fair, next to the Market Square behind the city hall on December 23 that year.

“Although heavy and persistent rain continued throughout, the organising committee remained undaunted.” Good for them! That’s the spirit.

With the exception of the war years and the Bambatha Rebellion, the society, they say, has held a show every year since. That’s quite a feat.

In 1902, they moved to the present showgrounds location which grew in size to its present size of approximately 18 hectares.

Now you know. And it’s rather fascinating. They’ve been there for over a century.

Imagine how many people have passed through the gates. Imagine your grandparents and great-grandparents going there for whatever reason.

Situated where they are, the showgrounds are one of those anchor points in the city. So much happens there. It’s the city’s playground for adults and children alike. It’s associated with funfairs, entertainment, candyfloss, doughnuts, flowers and sore feet.

Thinking about this unleashed a flood of memories. We’ve been to so many events there over so many years, from 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 to many Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business meetings there, had the prize-givings for The Witness True Stories of KZN there, been to business relays and even to proper jorls there.

Who remembers the eighties’ party a few years back, where we danced like mad in our 40s to the songs we loved in our teens?

Who didn’t feel the nostalgia that night as the deejay blasted Billy Idol, 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, we went out into the coolness of the grounds and heard the trickle of the stream in the background between the thump, thump, thump of the music inside.

Many of us remembered holding hands shyly with our first boyfiends (that was a typo, and looking back at it and having a chuckle, I’ve decided to leave it. It’s rather apt!), walking around the showgrounds hoping we wouldn’t bump into a teacher or a friend of our parents.

As young teens, my mother had two 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, for that’s when they frequented the show.

She would leave the antics of the “bad crowd” up to our imagination, and I remember being both terrified and fascinated by the thought of them.

To this day, I have never been on a roller coaster. When my boyfriends asked me back then to go on a ride with them, my standard answer was that I wasn’t allowed to. What a fun date I must have been. But I have stuck to that and it’s still my excuse.

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 coats, scarfs and blue noses. 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 your bearings in a safe place.

For those of us who’ve lived in the city for many years, the showgrounds have been an integral part of our lives here. They are a part of the character of the capital.

We drive past them all the time, we go to them. And we’re probably quite nostalgic about them. Well, I’ve discovered that I certainly am.



Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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