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26 Aug 2018

Centennial Parklands: The place for entertainment

Over the years, Centennial Parklands has been home to some of the most spectacular events in Sydney’s short history.

From hosting the ceremony to celebrate Federation in 1901, to some of the most nail biting sporting events (such as at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games), the Parklands has been home to some wonderful celebrations. Over the years, we have grown to manage more and more of the local area, which has meant that hosting events for enthusiastic Sydney-siders has become par for the course.

The early years

Before the Parklands were developed, Centennial Park was served as a pretty disgusting dumping ground for the local residents. Rubbish and pollution turned the water source of Lachlan Swamp into a dirty undrinkable mess. It took great foresight for the citizens of the area to lobby and push to develop an “additional air lung for the city”.

Centennial Parklands under construction

As the location became a hub for centenary celebrations in the lead up to 26 January 1888, the Park became the site of a new and exciting venue. The opening of the park was celebrated with a tree planting ceremony and the People’s Park was dedicated to the people of Sydney, by Sir Henry Parkes

It will be yours and so long as the land shall last it will be for you, and it is a great obligation that rests upon you as free people to see that no power, no combination, invades your right in the enjoyment of this great boon
Sir Henry Parks

Over the years, the Centennial Park was meticulously designed to embrace both the native fauna of Australia as well as introducing foreign seeds, to give it a truly international presence.

A little ‘show’ held by the Agricultural Society of NSW (now the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW) was moved to the venue around that same time (in 1881) and for 116 years, Sydney-siders celebrated the ‘Royal Easter Show’ in Moore Park.

The event attracted all walks of life (literally) as crowds gathered to encourage improvement in local animals and agricultural methods. Some the structures from this colourful period still exist across the Parklands, like little clues to the past.

Centennial Parklands’ first major event – Federation

Only a few short years later, the Park, still very much in its infancy was home to one of the country’s first major national events, Federation. On 1 January 1901, a whopping 60,000 people flocked to the park to witness the ceremony.

The original invitation to the Federation ceremony

The event itself was a lavish affair, with 7,000 dignitaries, 300 members of the press and a wonderful dose of pomp and circumstance. Thousands of local children performed in a choir and a temporary pavilion was built to mark the occasion.

Images from the Federation celebrations, as published in the supplement to The Town & Country Journal

Celebrating sporting achievements

Over the years Centennial Parklands has become an epicentre of sporting opportunity. From the gorgeous Moore Park Golf and Equestrian Centre to the 120 regularly used sporting fields and venues spotted across the park. Sporting competitions, events and festivals have been held over the years, but none quite so extraordinary as the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

Sydney Olympics running event at Centennial Parklands 2000

To the cheers of thousands of onlookers, Olympic athletes raced through the Parklands as part of the women’s and men’s marathons. The park was used again for the Paralympics marathon to an ever-tantalised crowd. As a result of that success, the Sydney Marathon has travelled through the Parklands every year since.

Managing two of Sydney’s most prolific entertainment venues

Over the years, Centennial Parklands has been home to many fantastic events, but perhaps two of the most exciting venues only came to be managed by the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust a mere 25 years ago. The Hordern Pavilion and the Royal Hall of Industries have been event venue staples in Sydney since very early in the 20th century.

The “showbag pavilion” and the “Hordern” as they are known, have been home to some amazing events over the years, from the Royal Easter Show to expos and rock concerts.  The most significant change for the venue came in the early 1970s. The explosion of interest in Rock & Roll music in the 1950s, combined with the improved availability of air travel, resulted in a substantial increase in the number of artists touring Australia. The work was completed in February 1972 and the following 11 years proved to be extremely busy.

During this period there were an estimated 1,237 events which drew a total attendance of 3,805,500.

Virtually every major act that played in Sydney from 1972 (until the opening of the Sydney Entertainment Centre in May 1983) performed at the Hordern, and the list reads like a who’s who of contemporary entertainment.

Some of the names who played at the Hordern included Cat Stevens, Roy Orbison, The Jackson 5, Frank Sinatra, AC/DC, Bee Gees, Eric Clapton, Queen, Bob Marley, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, and INXS to just name a few. 

Whether it’s the latest innovative expo, the annual Mardi Gras party, Cold Chisel or The Shins, their versatility has contributed to the legacy that Centennial Parklands continues to this day.

Festivals, events and celebrations

Every week Centennial Parklands celebrates something new, welcoming new and old visitors to absorb its wonder.

Today the Parklands hosts a multitude of high-profile events including Listen Out, Taste of Sydney, Sydney Running Festival, The Color Run, Polo in the City, Moonlight Cinema and more.

Keep up to date with all the major events that continue to be celebrated, with the What’s On page on the Centennial Parklands website.

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