NAPIER Mayor Bill Dalton quickly cut to the chase when asked how he rated Hawke's Bay as an events destination.
"It has not only become one of the greatest events centres in New Zealand, it is increasingly becoming a major events centre in Australasia."
And beyond, he added, citing the annual Tremains Art Deco Festival as an event which draws people from all over the country, Australia and the world.
"And look at the Horse of the Year - that draws them in from all over."
There was a strong new-found confidence across the region, Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said. "We can do these things because we have a lot going for us."
One was a focused commitment by the councils and the private sector to provide the facilities for all scale of events. "And we have had people like Sir Graeme Avery and Bruce Mactaggart move into the region, who have given us an international perspective," he said.
Hawke's Bay also had location on its side.
"We have a lot of fantastic outdoor destinations where we can run events with a lot more confidence (about the weather) than a lot of other regions."
The Bay was also blessed with a "can do" attitude among its army of willing volunteers who helped in the staging of events.
"There are so many upsides here, and the best thing is these people come back."
In terms of creating a great events landscape, Tourism Hawke's Bay general manager Annie Dundas put it simply: "Provide people with a reason to come here."
And that, she said, was being achieved through volunteers, to newly created events managers for the Napier and Hastings councils, individuals, sports groups, wineries and, of course, Hawke's Bay Tourism, which is a major part of the mechanism in steering the great events and tourism ship.
It effectively came down to diversity and timing - and the devotion of those who sparked individual events of all size scales.
When Ms Dundas took on her role four years ago, she sparked a regional events strategy.
"To look at what we had - to sustain and grow the big events we already had like Art Deco and Horse of the Year but also to see where the gaps were."
There was also the issue of timing. "Not jamming everything into January and February - look at variety and ways of filling the calendar - we looked at those gaps."
Because, with Hawke's Bay's relatively mild climate, even through winter, it had the potential to draw people for a winter break - and having "a reason to come here" was at the core of making that a viable and satisfying option.
Ms Dundas said the food and wine events front could be expanded. There was Harvest Hawke's Bay, which had been popular but other regions had similar festivals and it was only a one-day outing - and numbers had begun to dwindle.
So the great F.A.W.C festival was created, and it was slotted into November as that was one of the "gaps" which had no other major drawcards.
Its success had been stunning - with $1.2 million of tickets sales over three years. "And that's without accommodation and other spending extras here."
That concept was expanded into a winter F.A.W.C - again filling a gap in June - and this year it saw 3500 ticket sales.
Other events like the April "Big Easy" cycling event and the Festival of Hockey, the latter sparked by Bruce Mactaggart and which pulls in hundreds of visitors from overseas, also began to dot the events landscape.
Ms Dundas said there was no shortage of events and it was now a matter of "how we manage the calendar". A visit to Hawke's Bay Tourism's website shows seven event categories - arts and culture, exhibitions and shows, festivals and lifestyle, food-gourmet and wine, music and concerts, sports and outdoors and workshops and conferences.
In the first 10 days of November there are about 50 events, from plays and bands to film festivals and the big Harcourts Hawke's Bay Art Festival - which has a great swathe of events within it.
She said the region's councils were devoted to ensuring there were events and activities for all.
"And we work closely with them - and Sport Hawke's Bay do an amazing job too."
Having major events like the Melbourne Storm rugby league match, the Masters Hockey (which drew about 500 people to the Bay) and the ongoing musical concerts (10cc and UB40 are heading this way) added to the colour and diversity.
One thing which still needed some focus was the off-season, and one thing being looked at is the conferences market.
National conferences are often staged in the off-season as that was a more economic time to stage them. "So we need to look at that and do some planning for the future."
The spin-off effects of tourism from events equate to a healthy ring of cash registers - to the tune of about $550 million spent by visitors to the Bay every year.
And that figure is expected to rise.
"Provide them with reasons to come," Ms Dundas reiterated.
There is plenty on the near and distant horizon - and next year the regional Te Matatini kapa haka championships will be staged in Hawke's Bay, and the year after that will see the national championships.
"That will bring more than 20,000 people here."
Hawke's Bay has also been chosen to host a major cricketing camp next January - the numbers will be in the thousands.
And for their communities, and for visitors, the comfortable rural tastes and traditions emerge at events like the Central Hawke's Bay A&P Show at Waipukurau and the Wairoa Show.
Then there is polo on the beaches of Porangahau and the Tikokino District Gardens Fun Weekend.
Mr Dalton said the appeal of the Bay, and the drive of people within it, resulted in events like the Elite Cycling National coming here next January.
"That is going to be huge," he said, and the spin-offs are clear.
Large and well-staged events brought a lot of people into the region, he said.
And they enjoy what they come to see and then many decide to return for a holiday.
"That's the big thing," he said.
"We are right up there now and we are acknowledged throughout New Zealand as a prime venue for major events - and that is great to see."