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Spring into a country rose festival

Spring at the 1968 Camden Rose Festival

Spring was a time of celebration and ideas of rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal, resurrection and regrowth. Camden celebrated its ‘re-birth’ with a week-long spring festival held in the late 1960s in late October with a spring flower festival full of community events.

Camden News Rose Festival 1968 CN1968Oct30_lowres

 

Spring, the season of re-birth, was celebrated in Sydney with the Waratah Festival which ran from 1956 to 1973. Originally festivals in Melbourne and Sydney were sparked by the thousands of people who flocked to see the visit of Queen Elizabeth in 1954. The optimism of the post-war years was initially celebrated in Melbourne with it Moomba Festival from March 1955 and then the following years by Sydney’s Waratah Festival in October.

The 1960s were a period of prosperity and optimism in the Camden district.  One expression of local optimism and perhaps the inspiration for the Rose Festival may have been the new rose gardens in Macarthur Park which were planned and laid out in 1964, and planted out with 80 roses the following year.

 

Founder of the Camden Rose Festival

The founder of the Camden Rose Festival was insurance salesman JW Hill as fundraiser for Camden District Hospital. Hill was a keen volunteer and a member of a number of community organisations including Lions, RSL, Masons, scouting movement and an enthusiastic bowler, golfer and swimmer. (Camden Advertiser, 11 February 2009)

Hill led the organisation of the 1968 Rose Festival celebrations and involved the whole community. Festivities opened with a street parade along Argyle Street and were a highlight of the week. Festival publicity boasted that the parade would ‘feature decorated floats, vintage motor vehicles, commercial displays and costumed marchers’. (Camden News, 23 October 1968)

 

1968 street parade

‘Several thousand people’ lined Argyle Street and watched the procession of floats in the street parade which boasted a strong local line-up starting with ‘school children and members of the Air Training Corps, Scouts and Guides’ supported by five bands. (Camden News, 30 October 1968)

Camden Rose Festival 1968 Vic Boardman drive horse team CIPP
Cawdor Uniting Church Float in the 1968 Camden Rose Festival Street Parade. The driver of the horse team in local character and identity Vic Boardman. The old Commonweath Bank building is in the rear of the parade. (Camden Images)

 

Officials including the mayor, Alderman Ferguson, and local member of parliament, Max Dunbier MLA, supervised the parade from their vantage point near the post office. Parade floats included the Camden Historical Society which ‘entered a buggy and a team of horsemen in period costume’, Fossey’s store staff ‘featured girls in different national costumes’ while the fellows from Camden Apex Club provided a ‘humorous comment on National Dental Week’. The Camden Theatre Group float provided publicity for their up-coming show ‘The Pyjama Game’. (Camden News, 30 October 1968)

Camden Rose Festival CBA & parade 1968 CIPP lowres
The Camden Rose Festival Street Parade with a float with a colonial farming theme. The old Commonwealth Bank building is in the rear next door to Clifton’s milk bar. (Camden Images)

 

Parade proceedings were briefly interrupted for a short time when ‘a motley crowd of roughnecks’ called the ‘Kelly Gang’ rode into town on their horses. The gang provided ‘hilarious’ entertainment when tried to hold-up the CBC Bank, but instead decided to kidnap a bank officer, Bob Green, and transported him and his ‘charlady’ to the Camden Showground. (Camden News, 30 October 1968)

The western side of Argyle Street (the Hume Highway) was closed off and there were a series of entertainers: at 11:00 there was the Issues; followed at 12.00 by young dancers from the Camden Ballroom and Latin American Dancing Academy.

 

Wheelbarrow derby

A wheelbarrow derby started at 1.00pm and finished at the bowling club with hotel sponsored-teams in racing colours expecting stiff competition. The winning Crown Hotel team was made up of local identities Charlie Mulley and Eric McGrath.

The day was topped with a traditional village-style sports day at Camden showground with tug-o-war where the Apex team over-powered the local police. There were foot races for local men with rolling-pin throwing for ‘ladies’ and a ‘diaper derby for toddlers’. The winner of the ‘beard-growing contest was Don Rolfe who won an electric razor. These activities were supported by a pet-zoo and model aeroplane display. (Camden News, 23 October 1968)

 

Festival art exhibition

Local artist and school-teacher Ken Rorke organised the festival art exhibition, which attracted over 500 entries. The success of the art prize was a fore-runner of what would eventually be the Camden Art Prize which started in 1972 after the last Rose Festival was held in 1971. There were sections for adults and children (infants, primary and secondary) supplemented with handicrafts. (Camden News, 23 October 1968)

 

Festival queen

The 1968 Rose Festival Queen Marilyn Fuller was crowned by 1967 Queen Michele Chambers at the showground festivities after the parade. Other festival queen entrants were Miss Hospital Beverley Thornton and Miss Apex Ngaire Davies. (Camden News, 30 October 1968.

Camden Rose Festival Queen 1968 CN1968Oct30_lowres
Camden Rose Festival Queen for 1968 Miss Marilyn Fuller (left) receives her crown from 1967 Queen Miss Michele Chambers. On the right Miss Fuller thanked those who worked ‘so hard for her success’. Seated were Miss Hospital, Beverley Thornton and Miss Apex, Ngaire Davies. (Camden News, 30 October 1968)

 

Masked ball

Festivities in 1968 peaked with the masked ball held at the AH&I Hall on Saturday night 2 November 1968 which started at 8.00pm. Tickets were $3.75 with proceeds going to ‘local charities’. This was the second ball organised by the festival committee, president J Hill, secretary H Kitching and treasurer UH Parsons.

Camden Rose Festival Ball Ticket 1968 CdmMus

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What is Camden’s heritage, does it really matter and what does it mean?

What is Camden’s heritage?

 

Journalist Jeff McGill wrote an oped in April 2017 in the Campbelltown Macarthur Advertiser opening with the headline:

Camden heritage worth saving

McGill continued:

Such a pretty tree-lined streetscape, full of old-world charm. I’ve often stood at that green paddock next to the church, with its views across the valley…  locals are up in arms as online rumours swirl about moves by the church to sell the land…Right next to Camden’s most famous heritage landmark, an 1840s gem described by one government website as “a major edifice in the history of Australian architecture”.

In May 2017 the views of Wollondilly Councillor Banasik on heritage were reported in the Camden Narellan Advertiser by journalist Ashleigh Tullis with respect to greater urban development at Menangle.

Cr Banasik said this development opposed the shire’s ethos of rural living. The heritage of the area is amazing – there is Camden Park, Gilbulla, Menangle Store and the rotolactor site,” he said. This development just ain’t rural living.

Camden Park 1906 (Camden Images)
Camden Park House and Garden in 1906 is the home of the Macarthur family. It is still occupied by the Macarthur family and open for inspection in Spring every year. (Camden Images)

 

Journalist Kayla Osborne reported  the views of town planning consultant Graham Pascoe on heritage and the Vella family’s new commercial horticulture venture at Elderslie in the Camden Narellan Advertiser in May.

Mr Pascoe said the heritage nature of the site and its proximity to Camden had been well-considered by the Vella family…the land was ideal for farm use…the land has been farmed in the past…We believe we will provide a model…farm at the entrance to the Camden town centre.

Camden Community Garden 2018 IWillis
Paths, plots and patches at the Camden Community Garden 2018 (I Willis)

 

The views on heritage expressed in these stories do not actually define heritage.

There is an assumption or a presumption that the reader understands the intended meaning of the word heritage in each of these contexts.

So what was the intended meaning of the word heritage in each of these articles?

To answer that question another must be asked: What is Camden’s heritage?

 

What is heritage?

 

The term heritage is not that straight forward. There are a range of definitions and interpretations. The term is not well understood and can raise more issues than it addresses. Jana Vytrhlik, Manager, Education and Visitor Services, Powerhouse Museum (Teaching Heritage, 2010) agrees and says:

I think that heritage is one of the least understood term[s], it’s like culture, it’s like art, it’s like tradition, people really don’t know exactly what it means. http://www.teachingheritage.nsw.edu.au/section09/vytrhlik.php

Camden Whitemans Building 2018 IWillis
The Camden Whiteman’s building shown here from the street frontage in Argyle Street. The building has undergone adaptive re-use in accordance with the Burra Charter (ICOMOS) and continues to be busy retail outlet as it has done since the Victorian days. This means that their has been a retail outlet continuously occupying this site for over 130 years. The current building usage continues to contributed the delight and charm of the Camden town centre that attracts thousands of tourist every year. (I Willis, 2018)

 

To start with it is a useful exercise to say what heritage is not. Heritage is not history. Historian David Lowenthal says that

Heritage should not be confused with history. History seeks to convince by truth… Heritage exaggerates and omits, candidly invents and frankly forgets, and thrives on ignorance and error… Prejudiced pride in the past… is its essential aim. Heritage attests our identity and affirms our worth.

David Lowenthal “Fabricating Heritage”, History & Memory Volume 10, Number 1. <https://muse.jhu.edu/article/406606/pdf&gt;

 

What is history

 

The word ‘history’ comes from the Latin word ‘historia’, which means ‘inquiry’, or ‘knowledge gained by investigation’.

History tells the stories of the past about people, places and events. History is about what has changed and what has stayed the same. History provides the context for those people, places and events.

Camden Show 2018 promo
The Camden Show is an annual celebration of things rural in the township of Camden for over 100 years. (Camden Show)

 

History is about understanding, analysing and interpreting the past based on evidence. As new evidence is produced there is a re-examination and re-interpreting of the past.  History is about understanding the why about the past.

 

Meaning of heritage

The meaning of heritage is not fixed and historian Graeme Davison maintains that the history of the word heritage has changed over the decades.

Initially heritage referred to what was handed down from one generation to the next and could include property, traditions, celebrations, commemorations, myths and stories, and memories. These were linked to familial and kinship groups, particularly in traditional societies, through folkways and folklore.

In the 19th century the creation of the nation-state, capitalism and modernism led to the creation of national myths, national stories and national heritage.

Camden Narellan Advertiser HAC 2017June7 lowres
Camden-Narellan Advertiser 2 June 2017

 

ln the 1970s, the new usage was officially recognised. A UNESCO Committee for the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage adopted the term ‘heritage’ as a shorthand for both the ‘built and natural remnants of the past’.

(in Davison, G. & McConville C. (eds) ‘A Heritage Handbook’, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards NSW,1991)

 

Graeme Davison defines heritage in The Oxford Companion to Australian History as

inherited customs, beliefs and institutions held in common by a nation or community’ and more recently has expanded to include ‘natural and ‘built’ landscapes, buildings and environments.

http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195515039.001.0001/acref-9780195515039

 

In New South Wales heritage has a narrower legal definition under the Heritage Act 1977 (NSW) as:

those places, buildings, works, relics, moveable objects, and precincts, of state or local heritage significance.

http://www8.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdb/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/ha197786/

 

Heritage can be categorized in a binary fashion: cultural heritage/natural heritage; tangible heritage/intangible heritage; my heritage/your heritage; my heritage/our heritage.

Cooks Garage 1936
Cooks Service Station and Garage at the corner of Argyle and Elizabeth Streets Camden in the mid-1930s. This establishment was an expression of Camden’s Interwar modernism. (Camden Images)

What is significant about Camden’s heritage?

In 2016 the Camden Resident Action Group attempted to have the Camden town centre listed on the state heritage register. The group obtained statements of support which outlined the significance Camden’s heritage. Statements of support were from Dr Ian Willis (UOW), Associate Professor Grace Karskens (UNSW) and Emeritus Professor Alan Atkinson.

Camden Town Centre Significance Ian Willis 2016
A statement of significance by Dr Ian Willis 2016.

 

Camden Town Centre Significance Alan Atkinson 2016
A statement of significance by Emeritis Professor Alan Atkinson 2016

 

Camden Town Centre Significance Grace Karskens 2016
A statement of significance from Associated Professor Grace Karskens 2016

 

 

Camden Whitemans Store 1978[1] CIPP
By 1978 Whiteman’s General Store had undergone a number of expansion and provided a range of goods from mens and boys wear to haberdashery and hay and grain for local farmers from the Hill Street entrance. The mid-20th century building extension is to the left of the image. Upstairs were a number of flats that were leased out to local folk. (Camden Images)
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Live and Local music festival hits the right notes

Camden’s main street was transformed into a ‘Live and Local Beat Street’, or so said the publicity for the festival. And it was.

Camden Live &amp; Local 2018 Signage programmes

 

The publicity flyer promised Live and Local was a ‘unique experience’ and explored ‘new places and spaces’. And it delivered in spades.

An experience

The 2018 Live and Local Camden music festival is in its second year. The crowds were up and so were the number of gigs.

Camden Live &amp; Local 2018 Maddi Lyn Elm Tree Cafe
Maddi Lyn an up and coming young artist from the Macarthur area. Here performing in the courtyard outside the Elm Tree Cafe. A budding country singer she is aiming for Nashville. You can catch Maddi Lyn at venues in and around the Macarthur area.  (I Willis, 2018_

 

There were over 50 musos across 15 venues. This was up from 2017 with 27 artists across 14 venues.

The amount of raw talent was frightening and a little overwhelming. There must be something in the local water around the Camden area.

Camden Live &amp; Local 2018 White Melodies Squeeze&amp;Grind Cafe
Two talented musicians make up White Melodies duo based in the Macarthur area. They are singer song-writers Kellie Marie and Chloe. They have been finalists in country music competitions at Tamworth and the ACT. They play an easy listening repertoire of upbeat classics. (I Willis, 2018)

The crowds enjoyed the music on offer from professional and emerging artists. It is great to see local support for live gigs.

Eclectic Venues

This year the festival grew to include Friday night across a range of venues. This was a good introduction to the festival.

Camden Live &amp; Local 2018 Murray Bishop Quartet Michelles Cafe
This jazz ensemble led by talented local musician, band leader and impresario Murray Bishop on horns. The Murray Bishop Quartet play a range of jazz styles and are found across the Sydney area and are based in the Macarthur region. (I Willis, 2018)

 

There were also the Saturday afternoon gigs similar to 2017 between 2 and 6 with a full program of artists.

Camden Live &amp; Local 2018 Saxing About Saritas Emporium
Saxing About talented muso Will Habbal is playing outside Saritas Emporium in Argyle Street. This cool dude has a keen fan following on his Facebook page. This hip reed player pumps out ‘smooth jazz’ on tenor sax with a 5/5 rating. Check him out ladies. (I Willis, 2018)

 

The music festival used a range of eclectic local venues from cafes, fashion outlets, galleries, local hotels, restaurants, a shoe shop, professional premises and a local arcade.

A new venue in an old space

The festival succeeded in uncovering a music local venue in an unlikely venue. It is a space with the wow factor at the Alan Baker Art Gallery.

Macaria AlanBaker Gallery Alan Baker 2018
Macaria is a substantial town residence from the mid-Victorian period that was influenced by the Picturesque movement and Gothic styling. It has an awesome interior with beautiful timber floors, high ceilings and great acoustics. (I Willis, 2018)

 

The acoustics are to be experienced to be believed with a wooden floor, high ceiling and little echo.

Camden Live &amp; Local 2018 Harpist Fishers Ghost Youth Orch Macaria
This young student harpist from the Fishers Ghost Youth Orchestra showed this room at its best. The beautiful aesthetic of the space was complemented by the sweet tones of the harp from this young musician. The audience listened intently to the performance and then gathered around for an impromptu tutorial from the student’s mother on the specifications of the harp at the end of the performance. (I Willis, 2018)

 

What a venue with lots of atmosphere.

Camden Live &amp; Local 2018 Signage Macaria Entry
The signage at the front of Macaria and the Alan Baker Art Gallery in John Street Camden. This was the best discovery of the 2018 Live and Local music festival in Camden. A great acoustic music space in a colonial gem of a building in Camden’s historic heritage precinct. (I Willis, 2018)

 

This is a natural music venue for a small intimate acoustic gig.

Camden Live &amp; Local 2018 Isabel Estephan Macaria
Set amongst the roses and flowers Isabel Estephan shone in her live performance. A singer songwriter 18 years of age who has been writing her own compositions for the last 5 years. She has music in the blood according to her website and her songs are inspired by things she feels deeply about that define the world we live in. (I Willis, 2018)

 

Help for lots of tastes

All the venues had lots of Local and Live helpers to smooth over any hiccups and  guide and help out lost fans. They made sure that all gigs went smoothly.

Camden Live &amp; Local 2018 Organiser Cheryl CC
One of the chief organisers of the Camden Live and Local. This photographer grabbed a shot of Cheryl on the run between gigs as she made her way through Michelles’ Cafe. She was all go-go-go to ensure the venues ran smoothly and there were no hiccups. (I Willis, 2018)

 

There was music for all tastes from classical to blues, country, jazz as well as a rockabilly. Some good old rock and roll with a funky twist was popular with young fans.

Camden Live &amp; Local 2018 The Shang Upstairs at Fred's
Upstairs at Freds on the new outside area completed the atmospherics for the music festival. The Shang kept a horde of young folk entertained as the sun set over the 2018 Camden Live and Local music festival. We await the 2019 event with anticipation. (I Willis, 2018)

 

A gig guide can be found here.

Camden Live &amp; Local 2018 Signage Gig guide Elm Tree Cafe
Gig guide in the window of the Elm Tree Cafe. (I Willis, 2018)

 

A developing arts precinct

It is great to see how Live and Local contributes to the creation of an arts precinct in Camden for a day and a half. All this live music is good for the local economy, job creation and  helps build local tourism.

Importance of live music

Live music is central to the Live and Local music festival and acknowledges how live performance is an important part of our culture. Performances are authentic and artists provide a screen-time in 3-D without much assistance from tech-gadgets.

Camden Live &amp; Local 2018 Honey Sippers Camden Arcade
The sweet tones of Trish and the picking on guitar of Mark as the Honey Sippers. This local duo appear regularly throughout the Macarthur region and have an enthusiastic rusted-on fan base who follow them around the area. The Honey Sippers perform blues, rock, folk and country and they ‘love to play music that engages and tells a story’. (I Willis, 2018)

 

Performers at Live and Local provided a form of engagement of the imagination  which is sadly lacking with recordings or tech-devices. Live performances at Live and Local are fresh. It is not canned music.

There was an awesome array of talent on display for all to see – warts and all. Performers were in the moment and provided a physical and emotional experience with their audiences.

Live performance is a shared experience between performer and audience. There is an  immediacy that provides an  element of surprise and risk, perhaps even the unexpected.

Place making and storytelling

All Live and Local artists are part of the creative industries. They create stories which are expressed in song and music.   Musicians, poets, raconteurs, performers and writers are all storytellers. All cultures have story tellers.

Camden Live &amp; Local 2018 Rhia Camden Hotel
Rhia performing at the Camden Hotel on Friday night for 2018 Camden Live and Local. She performed her own composition ‘Camden’ and the audience enthusiastically demanded an encore at the end of her bracket. To which there were woops and cheers. Rhia’s composition tells a story about her home town and how she feels about it. (I Willis, 2018)

 

Storytelling as song allows the musicians to connect with their audience. Their stories are captivating, and full of emotion and meaning. These stories are one element in the process of place making and construction of community identity.

Stories as songwriting can connect people with memories of the past in the present. Music can tell the stories of place and the history of a community. Music can create a connection with the landscape and create an attachment to place.

Songs are one form of storytelling that can take a successful part of marketing and branding for a locality and community. In this way they help the local economy and local businesses.

Camden Live &amp; Local 2018 Hickson Circuit Michelles Cafe
This young trio of musicians are called Hickson Circuit and performed at Michelle’s Cafe in Argyle Street. They had a loyal fan club that include friends and family who encouraged them on their performance. (I Willis, 2018)

 

Support for music festival

The Live and Local project is a partnership between the Live Music Office and Camden Council. Funding was provided by Create NSW as part of the Western Sydney Live and Local Strategic initiative.

Camden mayor Lara Symkowiak stated

I encourage you to take the time and visit each venue to hear the diversity of the music and let our talented local artists entertain you for hours.

The director of the NSW government Live Music Office John Wardle stated that it

has been truly inspirational and we once again very much look forward to a day that will be a highlight of the broader cultural program in Western Sydney.

Camden Live &amp; Local 2018 Neilly Rich Camden Hotel
The Camden Hotel hosted NeillyRich on Saturday afternoon. The country duo of Kiwi Matthew McNeilly and Kempsey local Amelia Richards met in Tamworth. The dedicated songwriters are inspired by the likes of Lyall Lovett and Keith Urban. They are focused on ‘storytelling through music in the vein of some of the pioneers of the Australian industry’. They are currently on the road and had arrived from Bega to perform at Live and Local in 2018. (I Willis, 2018)

 

Musicians succeed in gig economy

Camden’s Live and Local festival demonstrated how musicians are part of the gig economy. All trying to make a living. These issues were explored in a recent article in The Conversation. 

Musicians identified that they did meaningful work according article author Alana Blackburn, a lecturer in Music at the University of New England. She maintained that

Their intrinsic success lies not in what others expect of them, but in achieving personal freedom and being true to their beliefs. It’s about meeting personal and professional needs.

More than this a study by the Australia Council for the Arts found that

musicians undertake a wide range of arts-related and non-arts activities.

According to Blackburn 

Musicians can survive under these circumstances by developing important overarching and transferable skills.

This type of career is called a ‘portfolio career’ where musicians have lots of jobs. A mix of paid and unpaid, and mostly short term work and projects. Musicians state that the prefer to be in-charge of their own career, despite the financial challenges. They feel that they can control their creative efforts and their music related activities.

Musicians, like other creative arts types, are mostly self-directed and driven by a passion for their artistic work. Musicians often work across industries and are not locked into the music industry. They consider that they are continually learning and are not afraid of failure.

Blackburn maintains that the success of musicians in the gig economy is down to a number of characteristics that they develop: life-long  learning, adaptability,  flexibility, social networking, entrepreneurial skills, planning, organisation, collaboration, confidence, self-directed, multi-tasking, independence, risk-taking, promotion and others.

Camden Live &amp; Local 2018 Signage

 

Many of the artists at Camden 2018 Live and Local fitted into this category. Some are in the early career stage while others are more successful. The gig economy is here to stay and provides many challenges. It is not for the fainthearted. Live and Local provided a sound platform for the exposure of these artists in a tough industry.

Camden Live &amp; Local 2018 Staff Macaria
A slightly perplexed Live and Local helper at Macaria making sure everything was flowing smoothly. She very patiently posed for this photograph before rushing off to other duties. All the Live and Local staff did a great job. Well done to all in 2018. (I Willis, 2018)

 

Learn more on

Facebook and

Camden Narellan Advertiser and

Wollondilly Advertiser. 

Live and Local Music Festival in Camden town centre’ Camden History Notes (Blogger), 17 June 2017.

Alana Blackburn, ‘The gig economy is nothing new for musicians – here’s what their ‘portfolio careers’ can teach us’. The Conversation, 21 June 2018.

Camden Live &amp; Local 2018 Signage Venue Here

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El Caballo Blanco, A Forgotten Past

Catherine Fields once boasted a national tourist facility which attracted thousands of visitors a year to the local area, the El Caballo Blanco entertainment complex.

The El Caballo Blanco complex opened in April 1979 at Catherine Fields. The main attraction was a theatrical horse show presented with Andalusian horses, which was held daily in the large 800-seat indoor arena. .

 

El Caballo Blanco at Catherine Fields in 1980s (Camden Images)
El Caballo Blanco at Catherine Fields in 1980s (Camden Images)

 

The El Caballo Blanco complex at Catherine Fields, according to a souvenir brochure held at the Camden Museum, was based on a similar entertainment facility at the Wooroloo, near Perth, WA, which attracted over a quarter of a million visitors a year. It was established in 1974 by Ray Williams and had a 2000-seat outdoor arena. The horse show was based on a similar horse show (ferias) in Seville, Jerez de la Frontera and other Spanish cities.

The programme of events for the horse show at Catherine Fields began with a parade, followed by a pas de deux and then an insight into training of horses and riders in classical horsemanship. This was then followed by a demonstration of dressage, then a session ‘on the long rein’ where a riderless horse executed a number of steps and movements. There was a Vaqueros show (a quadrille) then carriage driving with the show ending with a grand finale. All the riders appeared in colourful Spanish style costumes.

The indoor arena was richly decorated in a lavishly rich style with blue velvet ceiling drapes and chandeliers. The complex also had associated stables and holding paddocks, within a Spanish-Moorish setting The stables had brass fittings and grilles, based on the design from stair cases at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

El Caballo Blanco Spanish Horse Show Catherine Fields 1980s (Camden Images)
El Caballo Blanco Spanish Horse Show Catherine Fields 1980s (Camden Images)

 

The horse show at Catherine Fields was supplement with an ancillary Australiana show which consisted mainly of sheep shearing and sheep dog trials, while a miniature horse show was introduced in the late 1980s. The also boasted a variety of rides (train, bus, racing cars, paddle boats, and ponies), a carriage museum, a small Australiana zoo, picnic facilities, water slides and swimming pool, souvenir shop, shooting gallery, restaurant, snack bar and coffee shop, and car parking.

Emmanuel Margolin, the owner in the 1989, claimed in promotional literature that the complex offered an ideal location for functions and was an ideal educational facility where children could learn about animals at the zoo, dressage, and botany in the gardens. At the time the entry charge was $10 for adults, children $5 and a family pass $25 (2A + 2C), with concession $5.

A promotional tourist brochure held by the Camden Museum claimed that it was Sydney’s premier all weather attraction. It was opened 7 days a week between 10.00am and 5.00pm.

By the mid-1990s the complex was struggling financially and in 1995 was put up for auction, but failed to reach the $5 million reserve price. The owners at the time, Emmanuel and Cecile Margolin, sold the 88 horses in July, according the Macarthur Chronicle. By this stage complex was only open on weekends, public holidays and school holidays.

At a subsequent auction in July 1997 the advertising claimed that it was a historical landmark site of 120 acres just 45 minutes from Sydney. That it was a unique tourist park with numerous attractions, luxury accommodation and a large highway frontage.

The last performance of the horse show at Catherine Fields was held in 1998.

Unfortunately by 2002 the good times had passed and the horses agisted on the site, and according to the Camden and Wollondilly Advertiser, were part of a ‘forgotten herd’ of 29 horses that roamed the grounds of the complex. It was reported that they were looked after by a keen group of Camden riders.

Worse was to come when in 2003 a fire destroyed the former stable, kitchen and auditorium. The fire spread to the adjacent paddock and meant that the 25 horses that were still on the site had to be re-located. It was reported by Macarthur Chronicle, that Sharyn Sparks the owner of the horses was heart-broken. She said she had worked with the horses from 1985 and found that the complex was one of the best places in the world to work. She said that the staff loved the horses and the atmosphere of the shows.

Read more on Wikipedia and at ShhSydney which tells stories of abandoned amusement parks and at Anne’s Adventure when she explored the park through a hole in the fence in 2014, while there is more about the story with images at Deserted Places blog.

In 2016 the Daily Mail (Australia) ran a story about the sorry state of the former theme park. It reported that is had finally closed in 1999 and

its empty performance halls, go-kart tracks and water slides were overtaken by unruly grass and wildlife.

Gia Cattiva visited the deserted site and stated:

I have these special memories of visiting there in the 80s when I was a little kid – my grandma took me there.

It was a bittersweet experience. I feel really lucky to have experienced the park as a little kid and get to see the performances.

In 2018 Channel 9 News Sydney ran an item on the news highlighting how housing development is about to overrun the former theme park site. It features archival footage and what the site looks like before the new houses and street put in.

Former horse rider Sharyn Sparks states that working at the theme park was

like being on a movie set every day.