East Otago Field Days on the move
The East Otago Field Days has carved itself a niche in the rural farming calendar with strong support for its second annual event next week at a new venue on the outskirts of Palmerston.
Last year's inaugural field days exceeded all of the organisers' expectations with more than 100 exhibitors descending on the Palmerston Show Grounds in the heart of this East Otago town.
The turnout was three times the number of exhibitors organisers were expecting, stretching the space available at the show grounds to capacity.
Heavy rain and very wet ground conditions on the eve of the event exposed the limitations of the sports fields at the show grounds to stand up to the wear and tear of trucks and heavy agricultural machinery.
As a result the organisers have moved next week's event, on October 18-19, to a larger, drier site at the Palmerston Saleyards, just west of Palmerston on State Highway 85.
During the heavy rain event that drenched Palmerston last October, the saleyards remained dry underfoot with a gravel base designed to handle heavy stock trucks and trailers in all weathers.
The Palmerston-Waihemo A&P Association's president and East Otago Field Days chief executive Paul Mutch said the organisers were very lucky to have the option to switch locations.
He said the saleyards committee agreed to the use of the saleyards and local farmers and contractors had all pitched in to prepare the ground works, level the site, gravel access roads and mow the grass.
"It has been a terrific community effort because clearly people wanted to see this event proceed," he said. "Greater utilisation of the saleyards gives the event scope to grow up to three times its present size."
"Last year we were hoping to get 30 exhibitors and we got over 100 so clearly we were at capacity for the show grounds site. This year (bookings) are currently at 140 and if it's anything like last year that number seems to be rising every day."
"We've had a good response with all major tractor dealers here this year and machinery distributors from Auckland to Southland," he said. Many had pre-booked display sites indicating they intended to return each year.
"Many founding exhibitors support the field days because they have a connection to the community," he said. "They see that as an important element and a lot of our repeat bookings are from people who are coming back because they were founders."
The Palmerston-Waihemo A&P Association has experienced a real revival of interest in its activities in the last 18 months, running two successful A&P shows, planning well under way for its second field days and at least half a dozen equestrian events at the Palmerston Show Grounds.
Mutch said the aim of the field days was to generate extra income so the association could develop the show grounds to meet new health and safety legislation introduced last year.
"The new health and safety rules came into effect in April, 2016, and we had to have all the premises assessed," he said. "There were clearly dangers and we felt it was time to build something new that was fit for purpose in 2016 legislation."
Since then the association had leveled off a large part of the show grounds, demolished the old stock yards, sold off materials and was in the process of pricing covered yards, portable stock pens, a measuring station and a room where veterinarians could attend to horses during shows and equestrian events.
The committee had also made the most of the opportunity to beautify the show grounds with further amenity plantings of trees for shade and shelter.
Mutch said health and safety were big issues for rural communities and this was the theme chosen for this year's field days.
Health professionals from the East Otago Health Centre and Southern District Health will be on site to give rural people advice on any health concerns they have.
A neurologist will also explain the particular risks of on-farm accidents, the reasons for wearing safety equipment like helmets on four-wheelers and the effects of head injuries on accident victims.
Other attractions planned are a team of clydesdale horses from Dayboo Stud in Ashburton, a traction engine and vintage machinery display and a fashion show featuring anything from equestrian clothing and safety wear to the latest in rural fashions from local artisan clothing designers.
Mutch believes Palmerston is ideally situated for rural shows because of its central location at a major junction between Canterbury, North Otago, Central Otago and Southland.
He said the timing of the East Otago Field Days was the first show of the season and was complementary to the South Island Field Days at Kirwee and the Southern Field Days at Waimumu, events that run in alternate years.