Cyclone fears close event early

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 07:43 17/03/2014

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Ex-tropical Cyclone Lusi took its toll on the Central Districts Field Days, with the threat of high winds causing it to close two hours earlier than expected.

The cyclone was downgraded to a depression on Saturday, but wind speed remained a worry for organisers of the three-day event, held at Feilding's Manfeild Park.

The Field Days opened on Thursday showcasing 552 exhibitors and attracting tens of thousands of visitors from all over the country.

It was supposed to finish on Saturday at 4pm.

Fairfax NZ AgriMedia brand manager Dean Williamson said the decision to bring the event to an early close was made following information from the MetService and on-site wind monitors, with gusts expected to get up to 50-60kmh and peak mid to late afternoon.

Organisers had a threshhold of 75kmh, and if it had reached that, things would have become "untidy" trying to manage people and exhibitors off the site.

The gates became exit-only about 12.30pm, and event goers were informed they needed to make their way out of the grounds by 2pm.

Trading stopped at 2pm, and once the area was clear, exhibitors were able to bring in their trailers and pack up their sites, Mr Williamson said.

He said the site had not been set up to withstand wild weather.

Exhibitors and the public had been understanding, although there were sure to be some who were unhappy with the decision, he said.

That was "fair enough". "It's payday and they've missed an opportunity."

Worst-affected were likely to be stall owners in the food and clothing industries, because Saturday would likely have been their busiest day.

One couple had come all the way from Stratford, Taranaki, and were at the event for only about half an hour before people were told they had to leave the grounds by 2pm.

He felt for both the stall holders and those who had travelled, but they had to consider the safety of everyone, Mr Williamson said.

It was a shame, because there had been "fantastic" weather in the first two days, and organisers had received some good feedback.

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- Manawatu Standard

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