By Casey Neill
William Keys was the Dandenong Show’s first president.
His great, great, granddaughter Ann Keys is continuing the family’s involvement.
She’s served in the animal nursery at the Dandenong Agricultural and Pastoral Society event for more than 20 years and is looking forward to getting back in there on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 November this year.
“Because the family’s always been part of the show, I’ve liked to continue that,” she said.
Ms Keys explained that in 1871 Dunbar’s Hotel in Dandenong’s main street hosted a meeting to discuss launching an agricultural show.
The first show was held the following year. William drowned just months later while trying to save cattle from floodwater in Bangholme.
She said that John Keys came on board in his place and that about 11 other members of the Keys family have since served as show president.
“About eight or nine are life members,” she said.
“They were great community people.
“Agricultural shows in those days were a big part of the community.”
Ms Keys said the family was known for breeding Ayrshire dairy cattle.
Her father was Harold Keys, her grandfather was George and her great grandfather was Thomas.
“They were all involved in farming in the Dandenong area, mostly with cattle,” she said.
Another Keys descendent, Rob Beauman, passed on responsibility for the animal nursery to Ms Keys.
She said it gave children the chance to meet animals they might only have otherwise seen on television.
“When they see them in real life it’s lovely to be with them all,” she said.
“They probably haven’t even got a cat or a dog.”
But the show gives them the chance to get up close and personal with calves, baby goats, lambs, ducks and guinea pigs in the walk-in area.
There are hens, alpaca, sheep, goats and cattle in the farmyard section, and an enclosed glass cabinet with day-old chicks inside.
“I think shows are really important because we’re such an urban society nowadays,” Ms Keys said.
“Children and adults have no idea where the products they eat and drink come from.
“It’s really important to maintain that agricultural side of our lifestyle.
“Shows are not just about show bags and food and fairy floss and the rides.”
She always looks forward to the show.
“It struggles a bit these days,” she said.
“Once upon a time it was the only event in the district.
“It was a great social event as much as anything else.
“Now there’s a lot of competing entertainment.
“There are only so many entertainment dollars.”
To help stretch those dollars, the show has halved ticket prices this year.
Entry is $10 for adults, $5 for kids aged six to 16 years and free for children aged five years and under.
Family show tickets for two adults and up to four children are available via pre-purchase for $25.