Celebrating the country life

by Andy Bryenton

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A lot has changed in Canterbury over the last 143 years — imagine back to those times, when New Zealand was still a brand new country, and agriculture in this part of the world was still powered largely by draught horses and bullocks, sheep drovers and pioneering farmers. What would people from those times think of the modern tractors, harvesters and electronic technology which has turned farming into a science that drives the New Zealand economy?

It’s probably a safe bet to think they’d be proud of how far we’ve come. Moreover, there’s another certainty, too. It’s the fact that those early farmers would recognise a big event on the local calendar — the Courtenay A&P Show. That’s because this fine old tradition is in its 143rd year in 2018, and it still embraces the best of the old alongside the new.

Like most Agricultural and Pastoral shows, the Courtenay A&P — which will be held in Kirwee this November 24 — has its roots in both a celebration of the land and what it can produce, and in the friendly competition between neighbours, which has been a big incentive to advancements in farming over the years. People who work the land are rightly proud when they can boast of winning a blue ribbon or a trophy for the finest, biggest vegetables, the cleverest working dogs, the most well-bred livestock or the tastiest pies and preserves. It’s only natural to want to aspire to be the best, putting the skills which make a self-reliant and successful farmer to the test. Agricultural and Pastoral shows, springing from the old-world tradition of village fairs and harvest festivals in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, were unsurprisingly some of the first yearly fixtures on the pioneering calendar.

Carrying on all the fun of the fair, alongside competitions which showcase the many skills of our rural communities — that’s just what shows like the Courtenay A&P Show do best. This year will be no exception, as the organisers have worked hard to fill the day’s schedule with thrills, feats of skill and plenty of entertainment. You’ll find a parade of livestock in the judging ring, from poultry through to sheep and goats. Sheepdog trials will pit training and the bond of dog and master against the stubborn will of the flock. The equestrian ring will be centre stage for displays of riding and jumping. As well, under the banner of produce and home industries, there will be tables creaking under the weight of a mountain of fresh fruit, veggies and home-prepared delicacies.

If all this makes you hungry, there will be plenty of other treats on offer to satisfy even the biggest appetite. It wouldn’t be a real family day out in the country without lots for the kids to enjoy as well — from fairground rides to music, entertainment and more. Adults can browse a range of stalls offering all manner of crafts and interesting products as well and the things to see and do — don’t stop there.

The Courtenay A&P Show team have also called in a fleet of classic, vintage and restored vehicles, ranging from the farming tools of yesteryear through to vintage cars in all their antique glory. It’s fun to think back to a time when the big steam engines and classic tractors now so lovingly restored for the sake of history were once displayed at earlier Courtenay shows as the cutting edge of farming technology. That’s the kind of change you’ll see in more than 143 years of show history!

For nearly one and a half centuries, this big event just twenty minutes drive from Christchurch has been a family favourite, inviting people from all over Canterbury to come and enjoy a sunny day out amid the fields, celebrating all that’s good about the country life. Come and take part in that tradition — pack up the car, bring the kids and make a day of it. More information on ticketing, parking and the full schedule of events at this iconic show is available at courtenayshow.org.nz.