The Kildare County Show Society has contributed greatly to the social and economic development of Athy and its hinterland over the past hundred years and intends to continue to do so for many years to come. One of its great strengths has been to change with changing circumstances, adapting in format and emphasis over the years to meet the demands of changing times and economic circumstances.
In recent years its committee has numbered over 50 people giving generously of their time and voluntary effort. This commitment and the ability to provide a relevant and entertaining show has continued to make the Kildare County Show held in the Athy Showgrounds, a very special event for over a century.
How it all began The show began as the South Kildare Agricultural and Horticultural Show Society, based in Athy, around the beginning of the 20th Century. To facilitate the show, the early members of the society acquired an area of open space on the east side of Athy comprised of about 20 acres and known ever since then as the Showgrounds. This area already had a number of playing fields on which both Rugby and latterly Gaelic football was played.
The show society went out of existence in the early 1930s at a time when Irish Agriculture was heavily dependant on exports to England. Due mostly to the Economic War between Ireland and England, Irish agriculture went into serious decline during this period.
The Kildare Show becomes a national event Things began to improve in 1944 with the foundation of Macra na Feirme in Athy which led to the holding of a Produce Show in the Vocational School in 1946. An outdoor section was added in 1947 and the show was held behind the Railway Bar in Leinster St. The following year, the Kildare Show Society came into its own again, expanded the event and moved it back to the Showgrounds. The show grew to become a very large national two-day event, held during the first or second week in July each year. However, during a period of great difficulty for agriculture nationally in the late 1960s, the show went into decline and ceased altogether in 1971.
In the early days of the 1960s, the GAA purchased a portion of the Showgrounds, but ownership of the rest remained with the Kildare Show Society although it had ceased to hold an annual event.
The heritage should not be lost Anna May McHugh, Director of the National Ploughing Association had worked for the Kildare Show in earlier years. She became anxious that the heritage of a show in Athy should not be lost and initiated a public meeting in the Castle Inn, Athy, in the autumn of 1994. This well attended meeting led to the formation of the Kildare County Show Society. With the co-operation of all the clubs occupying the Showgrounds: the Tennis Club, Rugby Club, Soccer Club and the GAA, the society went on to hold a show on Saturday, 8 July1995. This was a one-day event as the society was restricted to holding the show on a Saturday as a member of the Irish Shows Association (ISA). The society broke its links with the ISA in 1997 and moved the show to a Sunday – a move which has proved very popular with the public - and has continued successfully ever since with the exception of 2001 when all shows were cancelled due to an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease.
Kildare County Show 2013. Photos thanks to Jacob Wolfe Mora.
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