Buckjump competitions near Warwick were recorded as long ago as 1857 at Canning Downs, Queensland’s first pastoral run, only 5km up the Condamine River from the centre of town and just across the river from the rodeo grounds. These events more than likely led to a bullock ride and some buckjumping being held in conjunction with the show at Queens Park in 1906 – 1908. In 1926, as a result of a dispute with Council, the society moved to new grounds at the far southern end of Albion Street (the dispute led to a referendum which the council won). The land was donated to the society (Warwick is one of only three show societies in Queensland which own their own grounds).
The very first official Warwick Rodeo was held in 1906 and Warwick became the home of the regular Australian Championships from around 1928. In 1931, the open campdrafting competition became the Warwick Gold Cup, named because of the presence of the then Governor of Queensland, Sir John Goodwin, who presented the very first Gold Cup to the winner. After the 1931 presentation the Gold Cup was then backdated to 1928 and the winners of the 1928-1930 campdrafts were presented a Gold Cup too. The Warwick Gold Cup, paid for each year by the business houses of Warwick, remains today as the “Holy Grail” of campdrafting in Australia.
The Warwick Rodeo was not held during the war but plenty of rodeos run by American forces and charity groups were held on the grounds. (No results for these events were ever kept and over the years, people who claimed to have won Warwick Rodeo during the war years cannot be validated).
Warwick Rodeo was immortalised in song by Australian country music legend Buddy Williams in the early 1940’s – Heading for the Warwick Rodeo – but well before then, Warwick had built up a reputation for tough buckjumpers, wild cattle and great prizemoney.
In the 1940’s the open buckjump, known now as the saddle bronc ride was for the $200 Cobb & Co purse – the weekly wage then was about $10. In 1946, after six years of war and no official rodeos, the Warwick committee was second to affiliate with the new Australian Rough Riders Association (ARRA) to ensure the best riders in the country were competing. The first committee was Marrabel, South Australia, just two weeks earlier. Today, that affiliation still stands as firm as ever but the ARRA has now become the Australian Professional Rodeo Association (APRA).
Although professional stock contractors now supply all the bucking stock at Warwick Rodeo, there was a time when Warwick’s own buckjumpers were considered the best in the land, so good in fact, the best 50 of them went by train to the Royal Easter Show in Sydney and to Brisbane for the annual Brisbane Exhibition during the 1930’s and 1940’s and were still being taken away for other big promotions as late as 1955. Interestingly, these same bucking horses were spread around the district, three or four on some properties, five or six on others, and it became a big annual event just to bring them in at rodeo time. The committee last bucked their own horses in the rookie event at the 1982 Warwick Rodeo and although it was hard to see an end to the era, it was no longer practical to retain the herd. Time in mustering, less property owners willing to agist bucking horses free of charge and the extra work in the backyards needed to handle horses which hadn’t seen man at close quarters for twelve months were the determining factors. Fully stocked contracted rodeo started in 1983.
History of Warwick Rodeo kindly supplied by John Skinner
The first Warwick Show was held on 12th September 1867 and was run by the Eastern Downs Horticultural and Agricultural Association. The object of the committee was to promote the development of agricultural, pastoral, horticultural, mineral and industrial resources of the District. For this purpose, it was proposed to hold a Show in Warwick each year for the display of all types of livestock, agricultural produce of all kinds, wool, minerals and machinery, together with such objects of manufacture, produce or the arts, as may seem desirable.
On 29 November 1962, the Eastern Downs Horticultural and Agricultural Association became the Warwick Show and Rodeo Society Inc. The Society is controlled by a Management Committee of fourteen elected members. There are one hundred and eighty (180) life members and six hundred (600) family and single members of the Warwick Show and Rodeo Society. It is the duty of the Management Committee to handle the affairs of the Society and make decisions relating to the running of the Show each year. The Management Committee is assisted by a Show Committee made up of a Show Chairman and other interested parties.
Up to 1982 the showgrounds was a total of twenty-three (23) acres. In 1982, to accommodate the growth of the Show, a further sixteen (16) acres was bought. Today the Society also has a lease on five (5) acres of land on the eastern side of the showgrounds, this being the only area available adjacent to the showgrounds. As the Warwick Show has grown, there has been a need to reorganise the grounds to allow room for expansion of sections. This has meant that some sections have had to operate on alternate days so the same area could be utilised by more than one section.
Community involvement plays a large part in the success of the Show. Up to three hundred (300) volunteers are needed to run the twenty-seven (27) sections. Each section has a Chief Steward to guide the volunteers. The local Lions Club and Rotary Sunrise Club are given the opportunity to raise funds for charity by being paid to man the gates during the Show. Whenever possible the opportunity is given to clubs, such as the Eastern Suburbs Junior Rugby League Club, to quote on any paid work that needs to be done. Our volunteer catering co-ordinator ensures that the volunteers on the grounds during the event do not go hungry. Breakfast, lunch and morning and afternoon tea is provided free of charge for anyone involved in the running of the Show.
Much emphasis is put on procuring entertainment from the community. Local schools, clubs and bands feature in the night ring program and perform on the Community Stage during the day. A local school equestrian group performed a quadrille at the 2005 Warwick Show night program and was subsequently invited to perform at the RNA Show in Brisbane the same year. Competitions such as Sheaf Throwing, Dog Jumping, Primary Schools Anything Goes Relay and the Chairman’s Relay encourage locals to get involved and provide entertainment for friends and relatives. In 2006 the Demolition Derby featured drivers and vehicles representing Crime Stoppers and display sites were supplied free of charge to the Fire Department, Police Department and RAAF.
In consultation with the Warwick Shire Council through the Mayor, Mr Ron Bellingham, the Community Stage was introduced in 2006 to showcase local talent and provide a training ground for up and coming entertainers, young and mature age. Belly dancers, School bands, the Scots PGC Pantomime and the Bagpipe band were all attractions this year.
The Pavilion area which includes cooking, needlework, painting and drawing, photography, schools, scrapbooking, horticulture and floral art, woodworking and lapidary has seen increased entries over recent years, to the point that the Douglas Feez Pavilion is now solely for the display of these items. Every section of the Show has at least one (1) children’s class to encourage our young people to have pride in their workmanship and strive to be the best he/she can be.
Many businesses in Warwick and surrounding area sponsor sections, both financially and in kind, at the Warwick Show each year. Warwick being a rural district, the local community is well aware of the participation of the businesses and clubs which support the Warwick Show.
A Warwick Showgirl Quest is held each year and the Miss Warwick Showgirl is crowned two (2) weeks before the Show. Our Showgirl then goes on to represent Warwick at Darling Downs level and if successful goes on to the Queensland judging at the RNA Show in Brisbane. In 2005 our Warwick Showgirl reached RNA level and was voted Miss Popularity. The quest is an opportunity for young ladies to gain invaluable experience in public speaking and deportment.
The success of the Warwick Show is not based on the number of people who pay to enter the grounds. It is however based on the number of entries received in each of the sections. The more entries received and the more sections created, the greater involvement by the community and therefore a greater showcase for the community.