Exhibits galore, bargains for all
The Central Districts Field Days has grown since it first began 21 years ago.
"It began in 1984, but then there was a period of time when the field days were not held. But in 1993 the event returned permanently," says event manager Cheryl Riddell.
She says a lot has changed over the years, including roads, power and water. "In the early years, there was no permanent infrastructure - we had to dig and lay in hundreds of metres of power cables every year."
Riddell says this year the field days in Feilding will boast 542 sites - a record.
"We are the biggest regional field day in the country. The South Island is different in that it has bigger gear, but we are the largest."
While exhibitor and visitor numbers have steadily increased over the years, it is still possible to get around the sites in one day.
That's a real bonus, says Riddell. It means people can see everything on offer and hunt for bargains.
She says around 35,000 adults come to the Manfeild site.
"Last year we had more from Lower Hutt and the Kapiti Coast. But people come from about two hours away - Hawke's Bay and Taranaki."
They also come from Horowhenua, Rangitikei and Manawatu.
Most farmers are looking for field days' specials and they go in search of them.
It is still very much a rural field day, but the range of exhibits has expanded so that some are aimed more at women.
This year there are exhibitors from an underwear company, rural and upmarket clothing, kitchenware, garden ornaments and outdoor furniture.
"The guys often come and look around on Thursday and Friday, then perhaps bring their wife to look at big-ticket items they might want, and the women can look around at other sites."
Riddell says exhibitor re-bookings are going very well, with more than 75 per cent of previous exhibitors on board and new people keen to be there too.
She says many of the old favourites of entertainment are returning, such as the tractor pulling events, and the Taste of Central Districts food and beverage tent along with some new attractions which will appeal to farmers and townies alike.
"The tractor pull is popular. People love noise and action. The National Excavator Competition - people love to see big machines pick up a paint brush and paint a number, pour tea. They are real entertainment."
There will also be the fencing and the popular woodchopping. Chainsaw carvers will make birds, animals and garden furniture.
"We call it the best day off the farm all year as farmers do put it on their calendars to come, check out new inventions and make their purchases," says Riddell.
A few exhibitors such as Tumu Timbers have been there from the beginning.
"We were approached to be a part of the first field days and we have never looked back," timber manager Kevan Todd says.
"We put up a small pole shed and scattered a few things around. We also took over a caravan and stayed on site and had an absolute blast. Since then, we have doubled the size of our site and we put up a shed which is probably six times the size of the first one, which takes a team of builders four days to erect," Todd says.
He says the Central Districts Field Days is the only event his business exhibits at and although it is expensive in terms of transporting all of the products to the site it is worth it.
"One year, Ken Laken, our rural salesman, and I were sitting in the beer tent when Ken leaned back in his chair and bumped the guy behind him. He turned around and said ‘you look like a man who needs a shed'. Well, he ended up buying the biggest shed we make."
Also on-site will be Griffin Ag-Air with what may be New Zealand's original aerial topdressing loader - a 1924 Hupmobile car converted to a truck which was used in 1949 to load the first Tiger Moth used for topdressing.
Hallett Giffin says it is hard to judge to what extent being at the field days means more aerial topdressing business for the company.
"It is friendly and really well run. We try to get around all our clients, but we can't. And some of them come to see us."
Griffin Ag-Air has old gear, but also the latest topdressing equipment.
Griffin says going to field days means urban people can see topdressing equipment up close.
"They see the role aviation plays in rural New Zealand."
Special events this year will include the RNZAF performing an aerial display on Saturday afternoon.
The Central Districts Field Days will be held at Manfeild Park in Feilding this Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
- Manawatu Standard
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