On Monday 14th August, Villa Rundle Gardens will open its gates for the traditional and historical Santa Marija Agrarian show again. This popular family-friendly event (last year it was attended by more than 8600 persons!), which today is synonymous with the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, is a celebration of the work of the Gozitan farmer as well as certain crafts, skills and industrial activities.
- The show was first held in 1855 (167 years ago!). If you want to experience the typical and traditional Gozo produce, then it is a must that you visit. Naturally over the years, the show has evolved to keep up with time, but there is no doubt that it captures the essence of rural Gozo!
- The Gozo Agrarian Show is held on the 15th of August because, this is the date when the farmers had to be pay their farming land lease or ‘qbiela’. It is also interesting to note that the Maltese counterpart of this show is the one held in Buskett during ‘Imnarja’ (late June). Way back during the 19th century, the organising committee planned it so, to ensure that the shows do not hinder each other.
- The show was not always held in Villa Rundle Gardens. In fact, it was only in 1943, when it was decided to move the show from the Primary School of Victoria in Vajrinġa, where it was held in the schoolyard.
- The variety of exhibits ranges from animals to fruits and vegetables, cereals and other typical craftwork. Horses, mares, donkeys and ponies along with cattle, sheep, goats and pigs are brought to the show early in the morning of the 15th where a panel of expert judges will decide about the winners in each category. Different breeds of dogs, poultry, birds and rabbits also participate. Apart from animals, farmers bring in cheese, honey, oil and wine that are judged by the respective panels. Most farmers and their families are keen to present the best of their produce at this show and one can say that the main Gozitan farming families are all present at this show. Other things on show include Gozitan lace, embroidery, cotton, wool and other crafts in stone, wood, iron and hide. Last year, a total of 115 competitors brought in close to 4000 exhibits.
- On the eve of the feast, i.e. the 14th of August, the atmosphere at Villa Rundel Gardens is given a more rural feel via the ‘għana’, the traditional folk music of the Maltese islands. Folk dancers and local għanejja (folk singers) will entertain the crowd.
- The prestigious trophies and prizes for the winners have always brought in a lot of competition. The trophies and prizes, which are handed out, late in the morning of the 15th are distributed by the Agrarian, Industrial and Cultural Society of Gozo(the organisers of the show) and other entities that support the event. The President of Malta and Minister for Gozo hand out the trophies to the overall winner and major category winners. When Malta was still a colony under the British rule, these trophies were presented by the Governor himself, a task which most Governors were very proud of and savoured!
Exhibit of local fruits, photo credit: Jennifer Barbara
A visit to the show is always interesting but you might also be interested in submitting an entry in one of the categories, in which case do take note that registration of exhibits is done in Villa Rundle Gardens on the 13th and 14th of August!
Click here for the full programme.