Elizabeth Binning is pleased she mustered up the courage to visit Rotorua's Farm Show
I'll be honest from the start. I was a little embarrassed going to see a show about farm animals.
We live in a country surrounded by 38 million sheep, I grew up on a lifestyle block hand-feeding bobby calves and went to a school where you brought along a pet for show and tell.
Spending an hour of my life learning about sheep and cows just seemed pointless, but it was part of our itinerary for a family friendly adventure in Rotorua, so we were committed. It turns out it was one of the highlights of our trip — and not just for the kids.
The Farm Show at the Agrodome, which is followed by a tour around a working farm, is set up to cater for large numbers of tourists — the majority from overseas — but there's plenty to keep Kiwis entertained too.
The main source of that entertainment comes in the form of 19 sheep, a cow, some ducks, a couple of dogs and Dale Harford, the host of our show.
Dale's good, but the animals are priceless.
After quickly warming up the crowd with a round of questions about where everyone comes from, the stars of the show are walked on stage.
The first is Prince — a large, very woolly merino with curly horns — who takes his place at the top of the multi-tiered stage.
He's huge and reminds me of Shrek — the sheep who appeared from the bush after six years of avoiding muster — and a haircut.
Next up is a drysdale, a breed covered in a very coarse, fast-growing wool that lends itself to the making of carpet. We meet 17 other breeds — all of which come with surprisingly interesting facts. Some are just impressive to look at, including Samson the dorset horn who generates a round of "wows" from everyone — including myself — as he runs on stage sporting a huge set of horns.
The sheep are all clearly trained to take their position on stage — they are lured by the promise of a good feed once in position. But there are always the rebels, the ones that no amount of training will tame. There's a newbie in the flock and Dale loses control as the rebel tries to take off, much to the delight of the crowd. There's also the greedy one who is so desperate for more food he's constantly leaning down towards the lower podium in a bid to steal his mate's treats.
Once Dale finishes rolling out fascinating facts, he gets the sheep up on their feet for a pic. It is Prince who rebels this time, refusing to lift his big frame from the platform he is sitting on. Dale's attempts to get him standing generate the first of an ongoing round of deep belly laughs from my 6-year-old son Caleb. Prince really didn't want to get up — and the crowd loved it.
The show continued with a sheep-shearing demonstration. As Dale tries to talk us through the art of shearing, the sheep he's working on also tries to escape. The kids are in fits of laughter again — as are many of the adults — and it's hard to tell if he's deliberately putting it on or if he's trying to hide the fact the feisty sheep is getting the better of him. Either way, it's making for a great show.
I'm just quietly hoping he doesn't slip with the clippers and cause a bloodbath, as the blades roll over her throat.
The show moves to cows (there are about 6 million of them here).
Dale tells us we have special cows in New Zealand: "This one is a latte, this one a cappuccino." He pauses, lifts up her tail and looks at the crowd "and this one is a hot chocolate".
He's good at what he does and makes what could potentially have been a boring lesson about beef and lamb hugely entertaining.
Meanwhile, Samson the dorset has fallen asleep, clearly bored by the show — and the crowd.
Next up, children are called on stage to help with a chore. They are each given bottles of milk with a teat on the end and told it's a milk-drinking competition. They look at each other, unsure what to do. Finally, a young boy lifts the milk bottle and just before he puts it in his mouth several lambs run on to the stage and the penny drops — it's them he needs to feed, not himself.
The final part of the show comes in the form of sheep dogs.
Dot, the non-barking dog, comes on a stage and rounds up three ducks.
"What's she thinking?" asks Dale.
"KFC ... or maybe peking duck," he says.
My son is giggling again. I don't think I've heard him laugh — really laugh — this much for a while and it's great. The laughter continues right up until the end, and any hesitation I had about going to a farm show is long gone.
It's a show that's well worth visiting — just for the joy of seeing the kids so entertained by something that's not on a TV or tablet. And, just quietly, it's great fun for adults too.
Rotorua is just under three hours' drive from Auckland.
Details: The Agrodome is at 141 Western Rd, Ngongotaha. There are three Farm Shows per day and they last one hour.
Further information: See rotoruanz.com.