The Tomoana Showgrounds was packed to capacity last night for a full-on evening of equine entertainment.
Thousands crowded into the grandstand, lined the arena and filled the food court for the Land Rover Horse of the Year Hastings Heart of Hawke's Bay Friday Night Extravaganza.
The evening had something for everyone with adults, children, horse-lovers and newbies enjoying the Horseware Silver Fern Stakes, slalom sweepstake, a polo demonstration and Mounted Games.
Event manager Dave Mee said thousands of spectators had a wonderful time and the grandstand was full.
"It's been great, a lot of fun and everyone is enjoying it ... a really good atmosphere."
The extravaganza kicked off on a "serious note" with the Horseware Silver Fern Stakes New Zealand vs Australia senior test match won by Australian Clint Beresford riding Emmaville Jitterbug who was "exceptional", Mr Mee said.
The Slalom Sweepstake was also a lot of fun and really got the crowd going, he said.
Tauranga resident Cherie Weck said she enjoyed a relaxed evening of entertainment and loved coming to the event as a spectator this year rather than a competitor.
"It's been great."
Ms Weck said she makes the journey most years and usually accompanied her daughter who used to be a show rider.
Nine-year-old Lily Biggs, from Pukekohe, watched the evening with interest and had competed on her instructor's pony earlier in the event.
She loved watching the Horseware Silver Fern Stakes and exploring the arena, she said.
Neil Attapattu, of Havelock North, came to the event for the first time because he got a ticket from work and found it better than he expected.
"It's great, I'm really enjoying it."
The extravaganza opened with a parade of school banners and singing of the National Anthem by a Woodford House student, followed by a welcome from Hastings Ambassador Henare O'Keefe.
What's on this weekend:
Farmlands Pony of the Year (today)
Premier Stakes (today)
Fibre Fresh Feeds Junior Rider of the Year (tomorrow)
Olympic Cup (tomorrow)
Land-Rover 3*** Eventing (today and tomorrow)
GJ Gardner CDI*** FEI Grand Prix Freestyle (tomorrow)