Over the years, Centennial Parklands has been home to some of the most spectacular events in Sydney’s short history. From hosting the ceremony to celebrate Federation in 1901, to some of the most nail biting sporting events (such as at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games), the Parklands has been home to some wonderful celebrations. Over the years, we have grown to manage more and more of the local area, which has meant that hosting events for enthusiastic Sydney-siders has become par for the course.


The early years


Before the Parklands were developed, Centennial Park was served as a pretty disgusting dumping ground for the local residents. Rubbish and pollution turned the water source of Lachlan Swamp into a dirty undrinkable mess. It took great foresight for the citizens of the area to lobby and push to develop an “additional air lung for the city”.


Centennial Parklands under construction

Centennial Parklands under construction


As the location became a hub for centenary celebrations in the lead up to 26 January 1888, the Park became the site of a new and exciting venue. The opening of the park was celebrated with a tree planting ceremony and the People’s Park was dedicated to the people of Sydney, by Sir Henry Parkes:


It will be yours and so long as the land shall last it will be for you, and it is a great obligation that rests upon you as free people to see that no power, no combination, invades your right in the enjoyment of this great boon.”


Over the years, the Centennial Park was meticulously designed to embrace both the native fauna of Australia as well as introducing foreign seeds, to give it a truly international presence.

A little ‘show’ held by the Agricultural Society of NSW (now the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW) was moved to the venue around that same time (in 1881) and for 116 years, Sydney-siders celebrated the ‘Royal Easter Show’ in Moore Park.

The event attracted all walks of life (literally) as crowds gathered to encourage improvement in local animals and agricultural methods. Some the structures from this colourful period still exist across the Parklands, like little clues to the past.


Centennial Parklands’ first major event – Federation


Only a few short years later, the Park, still very much in its infancy was home to one of the country’s first major national events, Federation. On 1 January 1901, a whopping 60,000 people flocked to the park to witness the ceremony.


Invitation to the ceremony.

The original invitation to the Federation ceremony


The event itself was a lavish affair, with 7,000 dignitaries, 300 members of the press and a wonderful dose of pomp and circumstance. Thousands of local children performed in a choir and a temporary pavilion was built to mark the occasion.



Images from the Federation celebrations, as published in a supplement to The Town & Country Journal

Images from the Federation celebrations, as published in a supplement to The Town & Country Journal


Celebrating sporting achievements


Over the years Centennial Parklands has become an epicentre of sporting opportunity. From the gorgeous Moore Park Golf and Equestrian Centre to the 120 regularly used sporting fields and venues spotted across the park. Sporting competitions, events and festivals have been held over the years, but none quite so extraordinary as the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.


Sydney Olympics running event at Centennial Parklands in 2000.

Sydney Olympics running event at Centennial Parklands in 2000


To the cheers of thousands of onlookers, Olympic athletes raced through the Parklands as part of the women’s and men’s marathons. The park was used again for the Paralympics marathon to an ever-tantalised crowd. As a result of that success, the Sydney Marathon has travelled through the Parklands every year since.


Managing two of Sydney’s most prolific entertainment venues


Over the years, Centennial Parklands has been home to many fantastic events, but perhaps two of the most exciting venues only came to be managed by the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust a mere 25 years ago. The Hordern Pavilion and the Royal Hall of Industries have been event venue staples in Sydney since very early in the 20th century.

The “showbag pavilion” and the “Hordern” as they are known, have been home to some amazing events over the years, from the Royal Easter Show to expos and rock concerts.  The most significant change for the venue came in the early 1970s. The explosion of interest in Rock & Roll music in the 1950s, combined with the improved availability of air travel, resulted in a substantial increase in the number of artists touring Australia. The work was completed in February 1972 and the following 11 years proved to be extremely busy.

During this period there were an estimated 1,237 events which drew a total attendance of 3,805,500.

Virtually every major act that played in Sydney from 1972 (until the opening of the Sydney Entertainment Centre in May 1983) performed at the Hordern, and the list reads like a who’s who of contemporary entertainment.

Some of the names who played at the Hordern included Cat Stevens, Roy Orbison, The Jackson 5, Frank Sinatra, AC/DC, Bee Gees, Eric Clapton, Queen, Bob Marley, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, and INXS to just name a few. Read more about the Hordern’s amazing history here.

Whether it’s the latest innovative expo, the annual Mardi Gras party, Cold Chisel or The Shins, their versatility has contributed to the legacy that Centennial Parklands continues to this day.


The Hordern Pavilion in action.

The Hordern Pavilion in action


Festivals, events and celebrations


Every week Centennial Parklands celebrates something new, welcoming new and old visitors to absorb its wonder.

Today the Parklands hosts a multitude of high-profile events including Listen Out, Taste of Sydney, Sydney Running Festival, The Color Run, Polo in the City, Moonlight Cinema and more.


A Colour Run in Centennial Park in 2013

One of Sydney’s first Colour Run events, in Centennial Park, 2013


Keep up to date with all the major events that continue to be celebrated, with the What’s On page on the Centennial Parklands website.


We're on facebook

Similar Articles

  • Sydney history unearthed: five ‘must-see’ heritage landmarks in the Parklands

    Visitors to Centennial Parklands are easily impressed by its surface beauty, filled with green vistas and water features teeming with native and exotic wildlife. Scratch beneath the surface though, and you will find a whole new layer of historical significance to explore. You might be surprised to learn that Centennial Parklands is in fact, rich […]

  • Moore Park’s ANZAC Obelisk included in national Centenary Project

    In 2017, the 100 year old ANZAC Obelisk was refurbished and reinstated to its permanent home in Moore Park East. The Obelisk is an important reminder of the Great War and honours the departure of soldiers from the nearby barracks in Kensington. Now, the historic monument will be included in the national Centenary Projects.

  • A history of bicycle riding in Australia

    In celebration of the Share the Park campaign that launched last week, we decided to do some digging into our historical records and learn more about the history of cycling in Australia. As an efficient, healthy and environmentally-friendly alternative to travel, more and more people are turning to cycling as a primary method of transport.

  • Celebrating Charles Dickens at Centennial Park for his 206th Birthday

    Did you know that on 7 February every year a small celebration is held in Centennial Park to celebrate Charles Dickens? This year, there is more to celebrate with the announcement that Sydney will play host to over hundred Dickensians and bibliophiles. After winning the coveted bid to hold the International Dickens Fellowship Conference, now […]