From an economic point of view, the most important exhibition in the history of the town was the Žilina Industrial Exhibition (Iparkiállitás Zsolna). Žilina was not selected randomly for this purpose. It was chosen because of the importance of its geographic location, made more so by the completion of the railway network. This included the construction of the Košice-Bohumín railway in the 1870s and the Považská railway, completed in 1883. Also significant were the roles of job opportunities in the region and the inflow of the financial capital necessary for rapid industrial development. A significant element in the economic life of the town were the craftsmen who formed a professional association which had 268 full members, 406 journeymen and 169 apprentices by 1903. It was the Association for the promotion and development of industry and businesses, known as the Association of Businesses in Žilina, which in 1901 developed the idea to organize the Industrial exhibition. At the meeting of the association in January 1902, the Preparatory Committee for the exhibition was already appointed. Štefan Rudnay was elected president and Július Grün became executive director. The patronage of the event was handled by Trenčín county administrator, Gejza Ostrolúcky. Initially the exhibition was to have a local character. The turning point occured at the meeting of the Standing Committee in May 1902, where it was decided that the exhibition would have significance for the whole of Upper Hungary and would include exhibitiors from Trenčianska, Nitrianska, Turčianska, Liptovská and Oravská counties. This change was met with support from Budapest. The Ministry of Economy donated 15,000 crowns to the preparations. In addition to the above - mentioned amount 7,500 crowns were collected. The town of Žilina gave 3,000 crowns and Žilina’s cloth factory donated 1,000 crowns
Prepation and process of exhibition
In 1903 preparatory work for the exhibition began in full. Within a few months in the area known as na Strelnici (the site of today’s sports complex by the river Váh), exhibition grounds were built. At the time of its completion an unexpected disaster occurred. The river Váh overflowed flooding the entire exhibition grounds, the lower part of the town, the cloth factory, many villages and the railway. Organisers immediately began cleanup operations and repairs, which they finally managed, and the exhibition was opened on August 1st, 1903. Trade Minister Lajos Lang came to Žilina for the opening ceremony of the exhibition.
The exhibition of approximately 10 hectares contained 25 pavilions built mostly of wood, as well as other buildings. The largest structure was the main industrial pavilion, where the majority of the self - employed and small businesses exhibited. Some of the larger exhibitors, such as the Hungarian factory for the production of wool cloth, military textiles and carpets, the cement factory in Lietavská Lúčka, Košice - Bohumín Railway, Martin’s brewery, Schreiber’s glass factory of Lednické Rovné, the bryndza cheese factory of Peter Makovický from Ružomberok, furriers Peter Holéci and Matej Kostolný from Liptovský Mikuláš, the book printers Biel and Jellinek from Žilina, as well as others, had separate pavilions built. The exhibition was also not lacking for food, culture and entertainment.
According to the catalogue of the exhibition, 353 exhibitors participated in the event. They were divided into 14 groups according to professional orientation. They were: I. the wood and furniture industry, II. the metal - working industry, III. the spinning and weaving industry, IV. the clothing industry, V. the leather industry, VI. the industry of stone and clay, VII. the consumer and food industry, VIII. the chemical industry, IX. various goods, X. agricultural machinery and tools, XI. transportation and lighting equipment, XII. the domestic industry, XIII. the works of journeymen and apprentices, and XIV. horticulture. With 86 participants, Žilina had the highest number of exhibitors.
The promotion of the exhibition was hadled by the company of Armin Nurnberger from Žilina and the book printers Biel and Jellinek of Žilina. Fountains were the work of the Žilina’s stonemason Janiček and the landscaping of the park was done by the company Mauthner from Budapest.
The most important exhibitors
Among the exhibits drawing the most attention from the visitors were: the pavilion of the Peter Holéci and Son fur company of Liptovský St. Mikuláš (at its high point the company employed 120 workers, it went out of business in 1922), the pavilion of the Turčiansky brewery of Turčiansky St. Martin, Nitra’s brewery, which was among the 44 exhibitors to have been granted the highest award - a great honorary diploma. A popular place for visitors was the stand of the liqueur firm Maurice Ripper and Sons. Founded in 1873, it was one of the oldest companies of its kind in Slovakia. The distillery produced its own types of fine liquors such as Borovička (Juniper liquor) Slivovica (plum liquor) and Brandy. Ripper’s medicinal borovička and Ripperovka, gastric medicinal bitters became very popular. The liqueurs of this company were not only popular in Žillina, but also became well liked in more distant places.
Exhibitors were granted the following major awards. Ranked from most prestigious to least, they were: 1st, the Great Honorary Diploma, 2nd, the Silver Medal of the National Industrial Association, 3rd, the Bronze Medal of the National Industrial Association; and 4th, an exhibition medal with a diploma. Awards were given to virtually all of the exhibitors. The Great Honorary Diploma was received by 44 participants. The silver medal was awarded to 61 exhibitors. Others were given bronze medals from the National Industrial Association and exhibition medals. It should also be noted that 15 participants exhibited outside of the competition.
Between the 1st of August and the 15th of September 1903, when the exhibition closed its doors, almost 60,000 visitors had the opportunity to view the various crafts and industrial products of the exhibitors.
Source: M. Mrva