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Chris Herbert can claim to be New Zealand’s last man standing when it comes to blonde d’Aquitaine cattle owners.
He will be one of the countrymen coming to town today when the largest agricultural and pastoral show in the country kicks off in Christchurch.
About 3000 animals – including cows, sheep, goats, horses and pigs – will be groomed, judged and put through their paces at the 155th Canterbury A&P Show over the next three days.
For Herbert – a 17-year veteran of the show and its junior president – this week is a chance to show off a rarity of the country’s farming scene.
The speciality cattle arrived from France in the mid-70s, weigh 900 to 950 kilograms and are worth about $5000 each.
‘‘They’re the only pure blonde d’Aquitaine left in New Zealand. That’s it, there’s no more.’’
Herbert kept coming back to the show for the comradeship and to catch up with cockies he had not seen for years.
‘‘It’s an expensive exercise showing cattle, it’s not cheap for anyone to bring cattle to a show, so you’re pretty committed to come here,’’ he said.
George Climo, showing his murray grey cattle, had been attending the show for nearly 30 years and said he would keep going as long as he could.
‘‘It’s the enjoyment of it, the camaraderie amongst all the breeders and, over the last probably seven or eight years, I’ve got heavily involved with youth and getting them going and encouraging them to keep the tradition going,’’ Climo said.
A&P show organisers had spent the past four weeks erecting marquees and setting up the 42-hectare site at the Canterbury Agricultural Park in Wigram.
Event director Geoff Bone said the show got bigger each year and, with the weather forecast looking good, he expected 100,000 people to come through the gates. The event played an important role in reuniting the country’s urban and rural communities.
There had been about 6500 livestock, feature competition, and horse and pony section entries this year, the latter accounting for nearly half of all entries.
‘‘There’s no event like it really where you have that amount of entries year-in, year-out. It’s an extraordinary event,’’ Bone said.
The Canterbury A&P Show remained a big deal for businesses, with more than 500 trade exhibitors and a city-wide spend estimated at $16.7 million.
Highlights today include beef and cattle breed judging on the ANZ Cattle Lawn from 9am, and judging for the All Breeds Supreme Award for horses happening between 2pm and 3pm in the Main Arena. Other events include woodchopping, happening all day at the Stihl Arena, children’s shearing in the Shearing Pavilion, and an Endurocross motorsport demonstration in the Main Arena at 1.15pm.
Bone said the Endurocross event, a hybrid sport combining motocross and endurance racing, had attracted about
120 riders this year, making it the largest short-course event in the country.
Many of the big events were scheduled for Friday’s public holiday – Canterbury Anniversary Day – including the Supreme Champion Animal of the Show presentation in the Main Arena at
The Ballantynes Grand Parade – the showcase of the prize winners across most livestock and equestrian sections – will happen at 3.45pm in the Main Arena.
The New Zealand Army Band will perform on all three days, with other musical acts including Ladi6 and the Jordan Luck Band taking to the stage on Show Day itself.
Public parking is free, with access via Wigram Rd, McMahon Drive and Templetons Rd. Cyclists and pedestrians only can access the Curletts Rd entrance.
Tickets are available on the gate. Entry costs $27 for adults, $10 for children aged 5 to 12, $17 for students aged 13 and over with student cards, under 5s can enter for free, and on Wednesday and Thursday only seniors entry costs $17.
The Canterbury Agricultural Park in Wigram is ready to take thousands of people through the gates today.