Bendigo Easter Fair, established 1871
The first Bendigo Easter Fair was held on April 10th and 11th 1871. It’s purpose was to raise funds in aid of two local charities; The Bendigo Hospital, and The Bendigo Benevolent Asylum. In the first year the event raised 2,560 pounds (or the equivalent of about $350,000 in 2017 terms) This was split between the two charities, each receiving f 1,280.
In it’s first 21 years the event raised £23,000 (over $3 million in current day terms).
It is understood that the planning for the very first Bendigo Easter Fair started after a meeting of citizens on New Year’s night 1871 at the Shamrock Hotel, when Mr. Heffernan suggested a fair loosely based on the Donnybrook Fair of Dublin Ireland, which ran from the 13th century until the mid 1800s. He contributed a cheque for £10 to kick it off and a room at the Shamrock Hotel to hold planning meetings.
Originally (when the city was known as Sandhurst) the Easter Fair was held at the lower end of Pall Mall around the current site of the Conservatory Gardens, later moving to the “Show Ground” (now the Tom Flood Sports Centre). Initially it was referred to as the Sandhurst Easter Fair or just the Easter Fair.
The first Easter Fair consisted of Processions, Sports, a Bazaar and various functions including a Luncheon attended by the Governor of Victoria, His Excellency – The Honorable Mr. Manners Sutton (The Rt Hon. Viscount Canterbury GCMG KCB).
- Mr. George Aspinall J.P. was Chairman of the Easter Fair Committee.
- Mr. James Burnside and Mr. J. A. Woodward – Hon. Secretaries
- Mr. John Stewart was Grand Marshall of the Parade.
- James BOYD was the Mayor of the Borough of Sandhurst (the city of Bendigo since 1891).
The Bendigo Chinese Association has been an integral part of the Easter Fair since its inception and have participated in the Parade since 1879. The first processional Dragon appeared in 1892 and although it is unclear whether this is the same dragon as the Current ‘Loong’ which participated until his retirement in 1970 when Sun Loong was purchased – a Chinese Imperial Dragon has been a part of the Easter parade since 1892.