It may have rained on Wanaka’s parade, but not even Mother Nature could hold back the crowds of nearly 40,000 people who turned up for the 82nd Wanaka A&P show last Friday and Saturday.
Thursday night’s downpour was welcomed by the local rural farming community after a few dry weeks of weather; however, it slightly interfered with the show’s set up.
“We had to close the grounds [around] 6.00pm on Thursday night, so many exhibitors never got fully set up,” said Grant Ruddenklau, newly elected chairman of Upper Clutha A&P Society board. “We had people arriving to finish set up as early as 5.30am on Friday; with over 35mm of rain this did cut up the grounds. We managed to mitigate with numerous loads of sawdust and gravel in parts; those areas were heavy rolled Friday night, also had an area on the western end of the show where water lay and we had to pump water from several sites; our resilient ground crew operated well under pressure.”
The wet weather did not seem to dampen trade exhibitors’ or guests’ spirits who, instead, expressed positive feedback from this year’s show. “They felt there was a very relaxed, happy and positive atmosphere; everyone was [having] a good time...” said Ruddenklau.
Abbey Deroles, Farmlands Co-operative Central Otago sales manager, said the show offered a chance for Farmlands to showcase their wide range of value they offer their shareholders. “It also provided an excellent opportunity for us to network with industry partners and influencers, as well as [connect] with the Wanaka community,” said Deroles. “Whilst the rain on Thursday may have deterred people and created a bit of mud, it was well appreciated by the farmers in the area and only helps set them up for a strong autumn. Farmlands is delighted to be associated with the Wanaka A&P Show and looks forward to being involved in the coming years.” Farmlands was the official sponsor of the 2019 show.
Wanaka A&P Show event manager Jane Stalker attributed a few factors to the show’s recipe for success. “The Wanaka A&P Show is now the largest two-day show in the South Island and many people make it a fixture on their events calendar, whether they come for the agriculture or the entertainment,” she said. “We’re very lucky as the show is always held the second weekend of March when the weather is generally great, people are ready to relax, farmers are less busy than at other times of the year and the timely rain meant they actually spent a bit more money, too.”
Ruddenklau said a little creative problem solving also worked well this year. “Over the last few years our ‘gift’ lamb numbers had been very low, this is a section where local farmers donate a fat lamb to the show [and] half the value goes to prize money,” he said. ‘Only eight to 10 entered the last few years; this year we gave the running of this event to our Young Farmers Club. This, along with a kind donation of two Siberia + Wilderness adventure trips [valued] over $800 by Wilkin River Jets, helped lift our entries to 30. Some thinking outside the square and local charity really works, thanks to both organisations.”
The total number of 2019 vendors tallied up to 465, cattle entries numbers came in at 45, and horse and sheep entries were 230 and 130 respectively. Livestock, repeatedly of high calibre, again performed well this year. “Cattle judging was again a great spectacle,” said Ruddenklau. “I gave the President’s trophy to the Erewhon [Station] Clydesdales; they were a great crowd pleaser, [and it’s] not everyday you get to see these magnificent animals and have a wagon ride.”
Sixty eight dogs competed in the world-famous Jack Russell Terrier race, with a Wanaka dog, nine-year-old Stella owned by Kristin Renda, landing first place honours.
On stage, the event showcased two days of an entertainment programme, which included performances by Wanaka’s country singer Jody Direen on the Radio Wanaka main stage, The Beat Girls, folk singer Anna van Riel and magician Jonathan Usher.
The event’s organisers told the Wanaka Sun there was not much they would do differently after reflecting upon this year’s event. “Roll on 2020, we have participation from the World Hereford Conference  and a significant Merino event already,” said Ruddenklau.
Next year’s Wanaka A&P Show will be held on March 13 and 14.