Proprietors of Dannevirke's Merrylees Hotel Nicola and Dan Phillips wanted to do something for the farmers of Tararua. Not only had they been hit with the drought but Covid-19 had taken its toll.

They had heard about other drought shouts but not local ones and they decided they needed some support to put one on. Readily agreeing were Jim Hewitt from Hewitts Motorcycles and John Phillips from Bridgestone Tyres, and tapping into their three customer data bases they sent nearly 180 invitations for Friday July 10 from 2pm at the Merrylees.

The impressive display of major prizes.
The impressive display of major prizes.

The offer was just "to come and have time off the farm and to have a good old natter and possibly even win a prize". Nicola says farmers are very isolated and it is good therapy to meet others and catch up.

Other sponsors came on board to expand the generous offers from the lead three including John Shannon of the Meat Company who supplied and cooked the sausages and John Ashworth of Junction Wines – who produced a vintage Reserve Pinot Noir.

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A very high percentage of those contacted accepted and well over 100 farmers and mates filled the Merrylees and the atmosphere was great. There was a real vibe and sustained by MC Bernie Walsh's commentary, several prize-givings, sausages bread and hot chips, they stayed well after 9pm.

Winners of the big prizes were:

The Husqvarna chainsaw (farmers only eligible) sponsored by Hewitts Shay Ashworth (father John was the guest drawer)

Bridgestone Tyres $750 voucher – Duck Bassett

Yamaha AG 125 Motorbike sponsored by Hewitts - Gaylene Hart.

Other great prizes include motorcycle helmets, jackets, oil packs and chillybins with the pinot noir going to Pat Leogreen.

This was a very welcome initiative from Merrylees Hotel – as Bernie Walsh said it was fitting to recognise the farmers because "when times are hard the cockies see us through".