Rain, hail or shine it will be Taranaki's biggest night of 2013.
New Plymouth's Yarrow Stadium will tonight host 23,300 rugby fans when the All Blacks play France in one of rugby's most fickle and celebrated matchups.
The All Blacks have already sewn up the three-match series, so who wins is largely irrelevant, but the rare provincial test has already been an economic victory for Taranaki.
New Plymouth's 700 or so hotel and motel rooms are booked out, bars are rolling in extra beer kegs, and restaurants and cafes are bracing for an onslaught.
"We've had extra staff on all week," says Kerry Vosseler, of New Plymouth's Chaos cafe.
"And it's been justified. We're expecting to be as busy as we were during Fleetwood Mac, and that is the busiest we have ever been."
Studies of previous tests held at Yarrow Stadium have shown the games can contribute as much as $1.19 million to Taranaki's GDP.
Playing host also challenges perceptions about provincial New Zealand and Taranaki, says Venture Taranaki boss Stuart Trundle.
"We even had a prominent journalist ask ‘How the hell does Taranaki keep doing this?'
"The answer is that we have great venues, a world-class team, extensive networks, and a track record of success," Mr Trundle says.
On top of that, it gives Taranaki a level of media coverage it could never afford to buy. The number of accredited media covering this game far exceeds the number in New Plymouth when the All Blacks played Samoa here in 2008 and Ireland in 2010.
The stories and pictures they will send all over the world may help send a signal to others, including expats and Taranaki's younger generation, that the province is a world-class place to live, says Mr Trundle.
"That might be enough to encourage them to come home on a permanent basis, or as they grow up and leave the region, to take with them the knowledge that Taranaki is a great place to return to in the future."
Should they choose to return tonight they had best bring their own All Blacks gear, and book a bed with relatives.
"All motels are fully booked. There have been last-minute cancellations due to weather around the country, but I imagine they will all fill up," says Brougham Heights manager Deborah Tawa.
Just down the road, Penny Armstrong, of Kingsway Menswear, says the shop has long since sold out of All Blacks beanies and scarves.
"And for All Blacks jerseys we've only got two XLs and mediums left."
All Blacks vs France, 7.35pm, Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth.
French history in Taranaki Page 15
Test buildup Pages 21, 22, 34
- © Fairfax NZ News
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