Fine wine, fine art, fine gardens and fine homes - all accompanied by fine weather meant plenty of fine smiles for the organisers of three major Cranford Hospice fundraising events over the past five days.
For the organiser of the 25th annual Hawke's Bay Wine Auction, Annabel Tapley-Smith, the generosity displayed by guests at the event which was staged at the Hawke's Bay Opera House Plaza in Hastings on Saturday was "overwhelming".
"We knew this year's auction was going to be very special with it being the 25th, but what we did not anticipate was the overwhelming generosity," said Ms Tapley-Smith, adding that all previous records in terms of money raised were "blown away".
The auction raised $180,000, all of which will go to Cranford Hospice.
In the open and welcoming spaces of the plaza the auction kicked off about 1pm on Saturday. It was clear some exceptional lots would be picked up by the large crowd, which included Prime Minister John Key. He was visiting the Bay and, being one who enjoys a fine wine, called by.
"He was an avid bidder," auctioneer and former MP for Napier Chris Tremain said.
"It was good to catch up with the old boss."
Mr Key successfully bid for one lot, which pleased Mr Tremain "as he is a big supporter of the Bay".
Mr Tremain said he was delighted at the response from the bidders as they exceeded the benchmark amounts which had been set for the lots.
"It's good to get 75 per cent but we were hitting the marks every time - it was a privilege to be part of it all."
Some staggering figures did emerge.
Lot 13, a half barrel of Sacred Hill's Shotgun Chardonnay, went for an impressive $8400, and two lots later the Tony Bish Wine and Arts Collaborative "All Things Beautiful" went for a remarkable $15,500, which drew great applause.
Church Road Winery's whole barrel (300 bottles) of 2014 "The Squirrel" Malbec went for $9200, Clearview Estate Winery and restaurant's "play, stay and savour experience" went for $7500 while a lot from Elephant Hill raised $9600.
A unique painting by renowned artist Gavin Chilcott went past the expected $10,000 to reach $12,100.
Chairman of the Hawke's Bay Wine Auction committee Tony Bish said it was again great to see the region's winemaking community engage with guests from all over the country as well as with the many local businesses which support the auction.
"It is a truly winning formula," he said of an event which attracted all the creators and producers of the region's finest wines under the one roof, and for a fine cause.
"It's also the perfect opportunity for guests to walk away with blends they will never be able to buy again."
Through the years the auction has raised about $2.5 million for Cranford, and this year's total left hospice chief executive Janice Byford Jones delighted.
"Once again we were overwhelmed by the support from Hawke's Bay's wonderful community of winegrowers, business sponsors and not least the individuals and syndicates from all over New Zealand who came, bid and helped raise almost $180,000 - we are so grateful."
She was also delighted with the response to the other two main events staged.
The Hospice Holly Trail, which drew visitors from all over the country and which has so far raised $1.3 million for Cranford since starting in 2000, was a huge success even before the first of the remarkable homes or sites on the three-day self-drive trail had been visited.
All 2500 tickets quickly sold out.
"It has been a very big few days and we were unbelievably lucky with the weather - it brought everybody out," co-ordinator KK Marffy said.
There were 12 remarkable properties and homes on the visiting list - all uniquely decorated.
As well as private homes the visitors got to look over St John's Anglican Church at seafront Waimarama as well as the Cape South Cottages and Craggy Range's lodge.
"What we were hearing was that people were amazed at the whole community spirit of this - a lot of people could not believe so many had got together to put this on."
She said there were many visitors from Wellington and Auckland, and even Melbourne, who travelled to see it, as well as other events taking place on the big charity weekend.
"They were amazed at what they saw and this really puts Hawke's Bay in the limelight," Ms Marffy said.
She said the organising team was now "putting the figures together" to see how much had been raised.
"We are hoping to echo past figures - we shall see," she said.
The last Hospice Holly Trail raised about $250,000.
For Julie Russell, who with husband Mike hosts the biennial Wildflower Sculpture Exhibition, the past few days had been "amazing".
"On Saturday we had about 1400 people here and that was counting the kids - it was such a lovely atmosphere."
Their Round Pond Garden venue off Longlands Rd was a mix of colourful and imaginative artworks as well as startling garden features.
The artworks of about 75 artists from all over the country drew a lot of interest, along with sales.
"We have sold a lot of sculptures but it is still too early to say what we have raised," Mrs Russell said.
The past four exhibitions had pulled in about $150,000 and she hoped this year's event would echo that.
"I think we did well because a lot of women came without their husbands, so they can buy anything," she said with a laugh.
"Oh, a gaggle of women can buy a lot."
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