OPINION: There's no doubt about it; Timaru's loss of the New Zealand Hat and Hair Art Awards to a yet-to-be-determined bigger centre is a big blow.
Not that it necessarily drew thousands of visitors here, or generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in visitor spending, but it was a Timaru concept, and something of a marketing tool for South Canterbury.
That's an area in which its influence became stronger as it grew and eventually had to be turned into a stand-alone event, rather than part of the annual Festival of Roses.
In that sense it became Timaru's equivalent of Nelson's Wearable Arts event, the success of which eventually saw it grow too big for its location and be moved to Wellington.
While Nelson still benefits from the concept, moving it to Wellington will have helped to ensure it could maximise its growth and attract the kind of audiences that would make it profitable on an ongoing basis.
Like that event, it's not hard to understand how the "hat and hair" could struggle, especially as an event in its own right, to attract the kind of audience to make it profitable in Timaru.
That's not a criticism of the concept, or the execution, both of which have earned rave reviews in the past; it's just a reflection of the size of the community.
Hopefully, then, the concept pioneered in Timaru will be able to be extended to meet its full potential in another centre, be it Dunedin or Auckland, which are the two mentioned in dispatches thus far, because of their respective fashion weeks.
But what does the loss of an event like this mean for Timaru in the sense of the community's morale? Because it's certain to be discouraging to some who possess the kind of creative thinking that will have brought this idea about.
One thing it certainly doesn't mean is that we should stop coming up with original concepts, because Timaru is clearly the kind of centre where new things can be tried.
With the proviso that if they take off, and the ‘hat and hair' has done that, they'll have to go somewhere bigger to realise their full potential.
So Denise Whyte is to be wished every success in taking the event further afield. Though it's naturally hoped that if it does become a national hit, much of the glory will reflect back to where it started.
In the meantime, our best creative minds should be thinking of the next Timaru concept that might win a national, or even international audience. If we're having the same discussion about that one in five years, we'll have every right to feel well satisfied.
- The Timaru Herald