Crowds flock to catch a glimpse of farm futures

AIMIE CRONIN
Last updated 05:00 14/06/2014

Sun shines on Fieldays

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A toddler leans on a fence and looks down on the Fieldays empire. It's another world. She squeals in delight: "A fairy go round!"

She's seeing things. There is a giant inflatable cow.

People have been tied up in a Fieldays traffic war to get here. On the way in, everyone is talking traffic jams and food. "Forty minutes it took!" and "Do they have drinks here," and "I'm ready for lunch."

A man brags to his mate that he knows just the place to go to get free food.

Everything smells like cinnamon donuts and hay. Every line is a mile long, especially if it's free at the other end.

Teenage girls travel around in groups of three, minimum. They all have long hair and puffer jackets.

A dad is comparing prices on a pair of gumboots for his son. There are small kids on big diggers and mums taking photos of them on their iPhones.

A group of boys are here on a school trip from Opunake High. They are here to check out all the farming stuff, says one. And for the girls, says another.

Some people hold stock sticks and thrust them out in front as a way to control oncoming traffic. Some of the guys look fresh off the farm, all swannied up and rugged beards, and some wear woollen coats over caramel chinos and look like they've come south for the day.

A mum has lost her daughter. She looks like a character in Platoon. Gumboots and army style pants and backpack. "Abby!" she shouts, marching through the crowds. "Abby!" She has two young boys in tow, with matching backpacks and yellow spades poking out. They find Abby a few stalls along.

"All three of them have my phone number written up their arms in case this happened," says mum, and she holds out an arm to show numbers written in green felt pen. "Where were you," says Abby's brother. She shrugs and smiles.

Lance Griggs works his way through foot traffic at an impressive pace for a man who's 86.

He stops and catches his breath and blows his nose on a hanky. He's been to Fieldays, oh, countless times, having been a dairy farmer most of his life and with a mild interest in staying progressive, though he says it's all well past him now.

He's come today with his son to look at the automatic milking machines, reckons they're pretty incredible. He can't describe the difference between now and when he was milking. Technology overwhelms him. He pauses for a long moment.

"I'm lost for words. I can see what things are for, but I wouldn't have a clue how to use them.

"It's left me behind, really. I can see how the world keeps going round, but it's left me behind."

Three teenage girls sit in the entranceway of the main pavilion with their bags out in front, parading their loot. They agree the best free thing so far has been the plastic windmill they each got from the ASB tent.

They've come today for three reasons, in order of importance: The free stuff, the food, friends. None of them is interested in: Fieldays, "I live on a farm," says one, "but I don't do anything."

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Anton Matthews owns a mulching and stumpchipping business in Tauranga. He wears a black T-shirt with Bay Mulching Ltd printed in green letters. This is his 19th year at Fieldays. A lot of it, he says, is not that relevant.

There are coffee trucks everywhere you look.

"Still," he says, "it brings the people. If you don't make the mother happy, the old boy's not gonna be allowed to come is he?"

Matthews has a motorhome parked up on a bed of mulch, but he's on his feet all day talking to customers. "I make sure I stand on a slope so all the bullshit slides down into the gutter."

He's set up with a jug and a big tin of Nescafe and his friends occupy the deckchairs with a cuppa in hand and a view to the footpath, where some of the 40,000 people who are here today will pass them by.

- Waikato Times

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