Never mind Fieldays week – 2018 will be known as Fieldays year as celebrations for the 50th anniversary pack the calendar.
Celebrations include a series of functions, artworks, a museum exhibition, two anniversary books and a surprise pre-Fieldays roadshow from the bottom of the South Island to the top of the North.
For an organisation steeped in heritage and so keenly aware of its humble beginnings and the pioneers who paved the way, a 50 years’ anniversary is a big deal. Nearly two years before the 50th year began, preparations were being made. The New Zealand National Fieldays Society formed a planning group comprising mainly past presidents of the Society and appropriately, led by a man who was there right at the start, Doug Baldwin. The group laid the groundwork for a series of events and commemorative activities.
In February, the Society held its first event at Te Rapa Racecourse. It was an appropriate venue for the first celebration as it was at the racecourse that Fieldays started in 1969 and 1970. Mayors, agricultural leaders, Society and Waikato Racing Club members and other VIP guests relived the early days with speeches and anecdotes, and the unveiling of a specially-commissioned anniversary sculpture by artist Cherise Thomson.
The regard with which Fieldays is held by Government was reflected at a second event in March in the Grand Hall in Parliament. The celebration included speeches from Society chief executive Peter Nation and Director-General of Ministry for Primary Industries, Martyn Dunne.
A third event in April at Mystery Creek was the Society’s chance to honour the many exhibitors, customers, sponsors, stakeholders and support services that have assisted the Fieldays event over 50 years. The Society presented awards to businesses and brands that have been with Fieldays for the entire journey and the many service providers.
“You have all individually and jointly invested thousands of hours, millions of dollars and given our event unconditional support for a very long time,” Society chief executive Peter Nation told the audience.
A book commemorating Fieldays’ 50 years written by Geoff Taylor and Richard Walker will be unveiled at a Fieldays dinner event in November. Meanwhile, children’s author Kat Merewether, well known for her book Kuwi the Kiwi, was commissioned to write a book for five to 10-year-olds about a pair of siblings’ visit to Fieldays. The key object from the Society’s point of view was to connect children to the significance of agriculture, telling the story through their visit to Fieldays. Ten thousand books are to be donated to New Zealand schools and libraries free of charge.
In May the Society unveiled an exhibition at Waikato Museum to commemorate 50 years.
To recognise Fieldays’ national reach a pre-Fieldays roadshow is taking place with events held in Invercargill, Palmerston North, Kerikeri and Te Puke. Fieldays major event manager Lee Picken says the events are a chance for families in each community to share their story over a coffee and a hot dog.
The roadshow will see Fieldays visiting rural communities in May and June in Fielding, Kerikeri, Te Puke and Hamilton before ending up at the pinnacle event at Mystery Creek June 13-16.
“Fieldays is very much about stories. We hear time and time again that this is the only time that farmers get off the farm and it’s a great opportunity for them to catch up with friends and family. Those stories happen naturally and its about us celebrating the stories and people that actually make this event what it is.
“Fieldays draws people from all over New Zealand and the globe, it’s the largest agricultural event in the Southern Hemisphere and every person we talk to has a story. It’s astounding when you think of all the lives Fieldays has touched” said Lee.