The A&P Show

20 October, Showgrounds Hastings

Our first A & P Show. The expectation was high. We arrived at the gates around 10am and strolled past the Hawke’s Bay Machinery Club’s glorious steam engines. Each machine, rich with history, was being carefully maintained by an oil-stained boilersuit-clad club member. Children were standing in transfixed anticipation waiting for the steam-powered saw to start ripping through a huge log. It was refreshing to see so much interest in these steam-powered machines in a time where we are so distanced from the actual manufacturing process.

Just past them, the DOC and the Cape to City stand had some nice hands-on activities for the kids, weta to hold, fluffy rats to trap and lots of very informed people happy to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for the bush. From the celebration and protection of our native flora and fauna we walked into the chicken shed where, in between rows of dirty and empty cages, the show’s prize-winning chickens were cooped up and on show in cramped, stinky conditions resembling an interactive battery farming experience.

Swiftly, we made our way to the maze, which was a great challenge. Surrounded by three-metre walls of empty apple bins, the maze covered quite an area with lots of twists and turns. Led through by two 9 year olds was a test of patience but great fun. It was a great addition to the show and a real highlight for the kids.

Looking for the true pastoral experience, we searched for the sheep and cow parades. We couldn’t find them, they had been moved and the times changed. This epitomised much of our day. We found the animal shows hard to find and schedules were nowhere to be seen. Some people had maps but I have no idea where they were being distributed from. To my son’s excitement, he heard someone mention sheep-shearing but we couldn’t find where to go. There were no officials to ask and stallholders didn’t know. Instead, we found ourselves at the beef and lamb ring where, to a very small crowd, a small group of cows were being awarded points for their breed-ability, a new concept to me. Fortunately Animal World was nearby with a chance for the kids to get a lamb and piglet fix. Animal World had an animal petting area where a selection of animals were left to the mercy of the sugar-high children who were looking for a cute animal to pat and smother with love. I was surprised to see the petting area totally unsupervised as child after child rushed in to pick up the poor lambs huddled together in a corner. I felt very sorry for the lambs and it seemed to show great carelessness on behalf of the A & P Show.

It seemed that the big draws of the show were Animal World and Mahon’s Amusements, which was packed. These were what the crowds had come for and not the animals and the showcasing of “our rural industries” which the show web-site claims the show promotes.  I was hoping to see the best examples of the Bay’s animal husbandry on display, events that truly promoted and celebrated farming in the region. It may have been there but I couldn’t find it, perhaps it was in the shadow of the Turbo Boost.

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