Why Hamilton event director Graham Hannah relocated his successful Hot Air Balloon Fiesta and Night Glow to Masterton is just one revelation in his newly released memoir.

A man of significant achievement, vision and energy, Hannah had many firsts to his name, including establishing the Waikato Home Show in 1985.

The launch of Hannah's book, What the Mind Can See, coincides with the Waikato Home & Garden Show's 35th birthday this week.

With an average attendance of 30,000 visitors, the four-day event is still considered one of the most inventive exhibitions in Australasia, targeting both domestic consumers and the building industry.


When Hannah bowed out as the veritable 'King of Home Shows' in 2015, he was granted a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia for his consistently imaginative and original presentations.

Despite his many successes, Hannah's unorthodox approach to just about everything was anathema to some former city politicians.

He battled on, regardless, to give the region some of the most memorable events ever staged in this country.

The cover of Graham Hannah's memoir What the Mind Can See. Photo / Supplied
The cover of Graham Hannah's memoir What the Mind Can See. Photo / Supplied

His inaugural New Zealand Food and Wine Festival in 1989 was like a multi-ring circus.

"Everyone loved it," says Hannah in his book, "but costs to stage the lavish affair gobbled up any profits and the effort required to organise competitions for chefs, and look after sponsors, was too much of a stretch to consider making it an annual event."

Born in Harrogate, Yorkshire, Hannah travelled overland to New Zealand as a youth. He established his first independent business in Sydney's Kings Cross en route.

Observing lonely soldiers on leave from the war in Vietnam, he set up a tour company offering them day trips and beach parties at night.

When the war ended, Hannah and his Hamilton fiancé, Colleen Lafferty, packed up their photos and dogs and bought a small farm in Whatawhata's Bowman Rd.


Many of the photos they arrived in New Zealand with feature in Hannah's colourfully illustrated memoir.

In renovating the original cottage on the Bowman Rd property, Hannah recognised the need and the potential for a Building Display Centre in Hamilton.

This he duly opened to much fanfare in 1979. The Waikato Home Show grew out of construction industry contacts developed in the 10 years Hannah ran the Building Display Centre in Anglesea St.

What the Mind Can See provides insight into the event-wizard's ceaseless drive for innovation.

The book's back cover blurb tells us Hannah "was a survivor, and an artist with a fine appreciation of aesthetics. He knew how to bring out the best in colleagues and associates and he knew how to party. He was the veritable joker, smoker and midnight toker."

Hannah died suddenly in 2016 a few months into his retirement. His legacy lives on in the Waikato Home & Garden Show, with his daughter Rebecca Hannah at the helm as exhibition director.

Her appointment followed Auckland-based North Port Events' purchase of the Home Show in 2015.

What the Mind Can See is available at select independent Waikato booksellers.

Copies will also be sold at the Waikato Home & Garden Show at Claudelands Event Centre from October 3 to 6. Online purchases: www.grahamhannah. co.nz