John Weekes is an NZME News Service reporter based in Wellington.

Photo recall: Today's the day teddies get plenty of bear hugs

Even so, the excitement of picnic-time for teddy bears tuckers out their best friends

Samantha Lusty, 16 months, has a nap at the Auckland Domain during the annual Teddy Bears Picnic. Photo / NZ Herald
Samantha Lusty, 16 months, has a nap at the Auckland Domain during the annual Teddy Bears Picnic. Photo / NZ Herald

When the going gets tough, the tough get napping. That seemed the best idea for 16-month-old Samantha Lusty at the Teddy Bears picnic in 1992.

It's picnic season again now, with events in most cities and big provincial towns. The big daddy of picnics for many years was the Auckland Domain event, where Samantha snoozed with her cuddly buddy.

Historically, picnics have achieved everything from raising funds for disabled children to showing off freakishly big barbecues. Over three decades, they've been the place for teddy bears of every size and shape. Best-dressed competitions were also popular at many events. In 1985, the Auckland Domain picnic raised money for the Crippled Children Society. Lady Beattie, wife of Governor-General Sir David Beattie, released balloons and judged the best-dressed teddy bear contest.

"It was a happy time," Lady Beattie recalled this week.

In 2008, the event featured the world's biggest barbecue, an 18m monster that cooked 14,000 sausages. The giant turned out 48 sausages every minute.

Other parks and leafy locations have attracted families by the thousand. Last Sunday's event at Western Springs was the 31st consecutive Teddy Bears Picnic in Auckland. Ron Curteis, from picnic sponsor Abe's Bagels, said it attracted about 16,000 people. His own children went along, and they especially enjoyed a Peter Pan and Captain Hook performance.

"It's a fun event that's free and just about everything there is free as well, which is fantastic," Curteis said. The event, he added, drew a cross-section of Kiwis. "It's a fully representative sample of New Zealand, really."

Teddy bear-related events today include a Teddy Bears Picnic show with entertainer Madame Salami at Beach Haven Community House, and the Plunket Teddy Bears Picnic in Featherston from 11am. Thames' picnic is at Victoria Park from 10am to 2pm today.

- Herald on Sunday

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