The New Zealand Cup and Show Week, which kicked off last evening appropriately enough with a fashion show at the Transitional Cathedral, is a celebration that is unique around the country.
Not only does it feature two of the premier horse-racing events of the annual calendar, it also brings together city and rural life with the largest agricultural and pastoral show in the country in a way that occurs nowhere else on such a scale.
It includes, in addition, one of the few occasions on which a reasonable proportion of the men attending as well as women can be persuaded to make at least a stab at dressing elegantly.
Cup and Show Week has long been a highlight of Christchurch's events calendar and it became more so after the earthquakes destroyed so many of Christchurch's entertainment opportunities.
For a time it was welcomed as practically the only respite from almost unrelieved tension and anxiety and now as the city recovers its appeal has not waned.
The success or otherwise of the week depends, of course, largely on the weather. That can vary enormously. It may be a popular myth, but there are some who can recall when Show Day on Friday seemed always to be accompanied by a blistering nor'wester.
In fact, the changeableness common for the middle of November means it is just as likely to be cool. A couple of years ago, rain put a dampener on the week. Fortunately, the latest forecasts suggest this week will be good for show and race going - a mild 16 or 17 during the week, reaching 22 and 20 on Friday and Saturday.
After marking its 150th anniversary last year, the Canterbury A&P Show will begin the second half of its second century with slightly fewer entries than last year.
Nonetheless, nearly 6000 entries have been received covering 1700 showing classes, with competitors seeking a share of more than $100,000 in prize money, 4000 prize ribbons and 250 trophies. It is entertainment that has behind it a deeply serious purpose.
It is a necessary reminder to city people that Christchurch's economy is built on its rural hinterland. The earthquakes damaged Canterbury's economy for a short period but not nearly so much as they would have if that economy had depended as much on the city as, say, that of Wellington or Auckland does.
It also reminds Christchurch that if the Government is to achieve its aim of sustainable growth of the economy as a whole, a large chunk of it will depend on getting matters right on Canterbury's farmland.
The only possible blot on this week of partying and fun will be the age-old one brought on by excessive drinking. It is not so much of the Kiwi fondness for getting well and truly lathered on alcohol that is the problem, but rather the slobbish behaviour that almost invariably ensues.
That kind of thing has been curbed in recent years by an increasing array of rules to control drinking but it is a pity that it takes the enforcement of restrictions to stop having a good time turning into a display of drunken yobbery. Maybe this year will be different.
- © Fairfax NZ News