The Nairobi Show, back then and now

There was a time when the annual Nairobi International Trade Fair, organized by the Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK), was a must go event for most Nairobians every year in early October.

This year’s show, which started on Tuesday and ends on Sunday, marks the 118th edition since the trade fair was first held in 1901.

Nairobi Trade Fair 2 - The Nairobi Show, back then and now
School children take a photo in a mobile studio at the Nairobi International Trade Fair on October 3, 2019 held at the Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) Showground along Ngong Road. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU

Back in the day, the ‘show’ – as it was simply know – was usually held before schools opened, thus making it more of a family outing.

Transport to the showground was always by the old Kenyan Bus Services (KBS).

On arrival at the showground, regular ticket holders – unlike the VIP ticket holders – often had to endure long queues, since show goers came from far and wide.

For pupils and students from schools within and outside Nairobi, the show was one favourite outing in their school calendar.

On entry, the various stands were usually organized by category – from farming, finance, education to health, name it.

By the time you visited around 15 stands, you had a whole collection of brochures to carry back home to show off to friends who might have missed out.

Nairobi Trade Fair 3 - The Nairobi Show, back then and now
Children enjoy a camel ride during the official opening of the Nairobi International Trade Fair on October 2, 2019 held at the Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) Showground along Ngong Road. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU

For most children, the most fascinating sights were those of cars, trucks and motorbikes on display.

Food and drinks were also most definitely in plenty with vendors at every corner selling something to satiate hunger pangs.

The round ball like ice cream, which left one trying to scoop everything out, was a favourite for many kids.

Biashara Street was where one would buy souvenirs or items at very affordable prices while at the fun pack you could find lots of different rides all for your pleasure.

Having visited this year’s show on the opening day, earlier on in the week, all these fond memories came back.

Nairobi Trade Fair 4 - The Nairobi Show, back then and now
A Burundi Dance Troupe member entertains guests during the official opening of the Nairobi International Trade Fair on October 2, 2019 held at the Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) Showground along Ngong Road. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU

The stands, crowds of  high school children on learning expeditions, families out together for the day, the dairy cows in the arena, the arena military show, the fun pack and the numerous vendors catering for everyone’s taste buds all gave me a sense of déjà vu.

But one thing I was looking forward to see was visiting the “mwili bila kichwa” stand which was a most scary experience for me as a child.

The one other place that I found memorable was the famous DS Club where we used to sneak into and dance away as our parents had lunch or made their own walks about.

But back then, national broadcaster, KBC ruled the airwaves and they made their presence felt with live transmission of the show. At their stand, loud music was always blaring from huge speakers, just like in a typical discotheque.

The Nairobi International Trade Fair may lost all the hype that it came with back then, but the show must go on…

Nairobi Trade Fair 5 - The Nairobi Show, back then and now
Animal handlers attempt to pull bulls into the auctioning ring during the official opening of the Nairobi International Trade Fair on October 2, 2019 held at the Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) Showground along Ngong Road. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU

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