OPINION: Fascinators, tie pins, windsor knots, pantsuits and spotted handkerchiefs are vying for space with earthquakes, educational reforms and insurance issues in Canterbury's news columns this week. That can only mean one thing - Cup and Show Week is here.
The fact that brollies appear likely to join the list of essential fashion accessories this time around is unlikely to detract from the enjoyment. The region's biggest event of the year is always keenly awaited and arguably has become even more important in recent years because of the need to celebrate as much as possible in the wake of the destructive quakes.
This year marks the 150th Canterbury A & P Show, a remarkable provincial milestone. Starting tomorrow, almost 600 exhibitors will unveil and demonstrate their new ideas and innovations at Canterbury Agricultural Park. An expected 100,000 visitors will ramble around the showgrounds, where the farming and rural displays will jostle for space with the best and the biggest examples of the region's livestock.
Organisers believe livestock entries will pass the 7000 mark, a target last reached at the 2009 show. Among those who will take the chance to check out the top cattle, sheep, goats, ponies and alpacas this year will be the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.
This afternoon, excited babble will mix with bubble at Addington as the fashion conscious, horse fanciers and the region's partygoers come together to toast the running of the New Zealand Trotting Cup. On Saturday, horses will again be in the spotlight in the New Zealand Galloping Cup at Riccarton.
If ever a good reminder was needed of strong, lasting links between town and country, Canterbury's party week provides that. Christchurch is still largely an agricultural service town, despite all the current quake-related issues that might seem to set it apart from the rest of the region.
Anecdotal evidence suggests a greater number of out-of-towners will be in the city for events this year because of diminishing concerns about earthquakes. Now, more than two years on from the first big quake, there are encouraging signs the city is slowly reviving its hospitality and entertainment industry.
Bars and restaurants that were old favourites pre-quake are reopening and new restaurants are taking their chances as the traditional tourist season draws nearer. One central-city hotel, the Ibis, is open again and work continues on others to prepare them for relaunching next year.
Unfortunately, there is a flip side to the kind of popular celebrations that accompany particularly Cup Day and the other attractions of Show Week. In the past, preloading and then binge drinking has led to gross intoxication and some highly public and embarrassing displays of drunkenness.
This year, Riccarton Park has decided to clamp down on insobriety in its Carriage Paddock area resulting from BYO car-boot parties. Instead, people will have to buy alcohol from specially licensed outlets.
Alcohol does not need to play a leading role in celebrating what is great about Canterbury. It certainly should not be a prerequisite for having a good time. After what Cantabrians have been through, many will just be grateful for the opportunity to enjoy the 150th anniversary showcase of some of the best their region has to offer.
- The Press