Despite the appalling weather that caused events to be cancelled and slowed gate sales, this year's Horse of the Year event looks set to make a small profit, says event director Dave Mee.
The Hastings District Council bailed out the event to the tune of $170,000 after it made a loss last year, and Mr Mee said this year's result, the exact figures of which would not be released until after the end of the financial year on May 31, was proof that steps taken to improve the event had been successful.
"We are pleased with the outcome despite the weather - when it was raining we wondered how it would be possible that it could be that bad, these kind of things have a big impact on events like this.
"But we had a very good marketing campaign, which meant pre-sales were good and entries were up so we went in quite confident."
The weather did affect day sales, he said, with most of the Saturday events cancelled and walk-ins 60 per cent down on what was expected.
Balancing this however, was the success of ratepayer and community promotions such as colouring-in competitions, which about 24 schools were involved in.
He said there were three or four objectives heading into this year's event - one was community engagement and that got good traction early on.
The equestrian community's engagement was also improved on last year.
"Being the second year of SMC Event's involvement there was not the uncertainty in the equestrian marketplace - we had more entries, more people camping on-site - that was significant."
There was also some streamlining of costs, and the event was boosted by increased trade revenue, particularly for the equestrian stalls.
"They did very well in the weather - the best they have ever done.
"Unfortunately the non-equestrian trade sites that were really targeted this year to broaden the appeal so there was more general outdoor and lifestyle engagement did not do so well, but in chatting to them they thought the event had a lot of opportunities and we are confident this area will grow."
There had been a delay with assessing the final figures because of negotiations with the Hawke's Bay A&P Showgrounds committee over damage that had been done to the grounds in the wet conditions.
"We have still got some way to go with that but I know the numbers will turn out to be positive."
There were also some areas to be worked through such as refunds, which would take a couple of months to fully wrap up, but Mr Mee said the event met the goals that had been set.
"We wanted to break even, have strong community involvement, to broaden the appeal of the show both in the region and beyond, and we feel like we achieved those key goals and are getting closer to making the event sustainable."
Horse of the Year Hawke's Bay board chairwoman Cynthia Bowers said she was very pleased with the result, not only from a financial perspective but from a consumer perspective where surveys showed the vast majority of visitors and competitors rated the show as good to excellent.
"This showed we are on the right track with the event - it's been a lot of hard work for a lot of people, and for the board it is very satisfying that we have such a positive result.
"Had we not had that awful weather we would have done even better, and we now feel set up really well for 2018."