Crowds flock to rejuvenated Masterton show

CALEB HARRIS
Last updated 05:00 18/02/2014
Coie O’Brien
GEOFF WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ
SEEN IT ALL: Coie O’Brien, 94, has been to all but two Masterton A&P shows since she was 5. ‘‘I think it has got a good future,’’ she said.

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A venerable rural event will keep evolving after record crowds vindicated bold changes, organisers say.

After years of flagging attendances, the Masterton A&P show had the "best crowds in 20 years" on Saturday, president Allan Williams said.

"We were thrilled with all the changes, and what a great crowd."

The society put together a five-year plan last year around a new "Gate to Plate" culinary competition at the Solway Showgrounds venue, judging lamb "on the hoof", "on the hook" and "on the plate".

Boulcott St Bistro chef Rex Morgan and other expert judges compared 61 entries before Neil Wyeth of Rangitumau, north of Masterton, was declared the region's best lamb producer.

Mr Williams said the aim was to attract 100 entrants next year, and for the show to keep evolving.

"It's a way of changing the style of A&P shows of the past. It's hard to get interest in them except from people who are actually exhibiting. The ultimate aim is a great family atmosphere."

He said a concert to finish the day was successful but would be "tweaked", to start earlier and finish later, and take place closer to the crowds around the Gate to Plate event.

Perhaps the person best equipped to judge the success of the changes is 94-year-old Coie O'Brien, who has been to all but two annual Masterton A&P shows since she was 5.

The Masterton great-grandmother said she used to ride for hours to get to the show from the family dairy farm near Tinui, north of Masterton, and loved taking part in the equestrian competitions.

"I was thrilled when my pony used to get something."

The biggest change over the years was fewer livestock on show now, she said.

"People used to flock into the grandstand to watch the livestock parade."

She liked the idea of the Gate to Plate competition attracting more people from Wellington.

"It'd boost the crowds, allright, I think they'd enjoy themselves. I think it has got a good future."

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- The Dominion Post

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