The unlikely story of a Wanganui headmistress who planted the seeds of a billion-dollar industry is being celebrated on stage tonight.
About one-third of the Wanganui Girls' College student body is involved in the ASB Stage Challenge performance, which is focused on the 1904 introduction to New Zealand of the kiwifruit by Isabel Fraser - coincidentally a past principal of the school.
Nita Pond, the school's assistance principal, said the show had a theme running throughout of kiwiana and was based on the concept of one of Ms Fraser's descendants researching her for a social studies project.
"She was our second principal from 1894 and it was when she went to China to visit her sister that she found these seeds.
"Of course, at the time, she'd have had no idea they would turn out to be kiwifruit, but she brought them back to Wanganui and that's how the Hayward variety began."
Mrs Pond said about 96 girls would perform onstage, while close to 20 would be hard at work backstage with hair, makeup and props.
Students and staff had worked together to create the costumes - ranging from 19th century Chinese dancers to a dozen kiwifruit outfits - and had been working since February on the project.
The centrepiece of that work, a giant school exercise book complete with pages to be turned, forms the backdrop to the story.
The Stage Challenge is on at the Regent on Broadway, Palmerston North at 6.30pm tonight.