The world's first smell-o-thon

23:02, Apr 01 2014
Southland Times photo
The Arrowtown Autumn Festival has been going for 30 years. Pictured is the chairman Lex Perkins, concert organiser Reg McTaggart, Arrow Miner and organiser Barry Bain, current vice-chairwoman Shirley Palmer, longest-serving chairwoman and first Madam of the Buckingham Belles Marilyn Everett, exhibition organiser Ann Bain, video and lighting dogsbody Russell Everett and current co-ordinator Toni Stockholm.

It is a little known fact that there have been many world firsts during the 30 years of the Arrowtown Autumn Festival.

For example, there was the world first smell-o-thon, Barry Bain says.

High Noon was playing the Athenaeum Hall and Cary Grant was ready to draw. Bain had set up several buckets of horse manure behind the perforated screen and a large carpet drying fan.

"We just blew the stuff. The whole hall smelt of horse manure. The first four rows really got their money's worth. They had a bowls tournament that night and they had to play in that bloody stink."

As the sousaphone player in the Arrow Miners band, Bain is one of the faces of the festival. He is also one of the originals, having been with the festival since it started in 1984.

Reg McTaggart was another and recalled local hotelier Ross Martin being behind that first festival - his ambition being "to put bums in beds in the off-season."


However, Martin was a sick man. He was taken to hospital on the first Friday night of the festival and discharged himself to be at the official opening on Saturday. Within 10 days he died.

Little would he have guessed the longevity and popularity of the Southland Times/Mirror-sponsored festival.

In its first few years the Arrow Miners was created as were the dancing girls who have become synonymous with the festival and the town, the Buckingham Belles.

Marilyn Everett was the first "Madam" and went on to become a committee member and the longest-serving chairwoman, her year count topped only by current chairman Lex Perkins.

Husband Russell was also roped in, becoming responsible for the lighting and videoing of the many variety shows and concerts in the Athenaeum Hall. "Once you've started you can't get out," he said.

From the beginning the festival became known for its street parties, filled with buskers, musicians and animals, the exceptional standard of the art exhibition, the popular dances and the talent shows.

One year Bain attempted another "world first" - playing Flight of the Bumblebee on a swanee whistle.

"It was a disaster," he recalled with a wink, all part of the act.

Perkins has always been responsible for the Saturday morning market consisting of about 200 stalls.

On his first year he headed out on the Friday afternoon and marked out all the sites with stakes. At 6am all the stall holders started arriving and all the stakes had been pulled out: "Young fellas going to the pub."

"The next year I got a big spray can and painted the rows. That night the wind got up and blew a gale and there was about half a metre of leaves covering the whole park."

Fast facts

The Southland Times