The first meeting of the new organisation was held on March 11, 1876. The new organisation was called the Marlborough Agricultural Association and favoured holding just one good show a year. The new body owned six acres (2.4ha) on land in Maxwell Road and the Provincial Government gave them 150 pounds which was half the cost of the land. By the 1920’s the Association had acquired the adjoining Hull’s paddock and the Alabama Hotel site on the corner of Maxwell and Alabama Roads which were incorporated into the showgrounds block.
The 1920’s saw the development of the Sheep Pavilion, main grandstand and the brick wall with its grand iron entrance gates. These structures stand today as a tribute to the people who planned and built them. Each has an Historic Places Trust classification.
The war impacted heavily on daily life in Marlborough and caused the cancellation of the 1942 and 1943 A&P shows. Japanese invasion became a very real possibility. The showground was commandeered by the army and transformed into a tent village.
By the end of the 1950 membership numbered 539 with 15 juniors and the show was attracting record entries. The 1959 A&P Show was known as the Centennial Show and marked the 100 years since the found of the Marlborough province. It was opened by the Governor General Lord Cobham.
During 1969 an informal approach to the chairman of the Blenheim Borough Council’s reserves committee proved the turning point in the Association’s fortunes. The initial response from Council to the proposal was not encouraging by late 1970 the two parties were involved in the first of a complex and lengthy round of negotiations to transfer the land to be covered by a special act of parliament called the Marlborough Agricultural and Pastoral Act. The draft Deed and Bill were presented in their final form in March 1973 and passed through parliament in October 1974. A&P Park, as it was named, was deemed an official recreational reserve on November 20, 1975.
And so it was that the members of the Marlborough A&P Association of the day managed to resolve, once and for all, the major financial difficulties that had befallen it over the last 15 years.
Gone were the days when the A&P Association cut hay and grazed stock on the Park or found it necessary to call the Fire Brigade to burn off the rank growth before it became a fire hazard.
In 1972 the Laidlaw Pavilion was built near the main grandstand to house the Home Produce section. The Centennial Show was held over three days 2-4 November 1972.
Record or near record entries in all section were a feature of the 1978 show and after a few years in recession the number of trade exhibits continued to increase.
Much of 1984 was taken up with negotiations between the Association and the Blenheim Borough Council concerning the remodelling of No. 2 Grandstand. Before long the Association’s secretary was enjoying a new upstairs office, with its generous views of the Park, and the downstairs President’s room and storage areas were back to normal.
Footnote:“A Grand Parade – A History of the Marlborough A&P Association” by Cynthia Brooks Published by Marlborough A&P Association, 1997