A warm sunny day with just a gentle breeze to keep things comfortable greeted the 330 passengers off the train from Palmerston North at 10.30am on November 15.
In no time after a ferocious and melodic welcome from Wharetiti Kapa Haka Roopu on the refurbished Woodville Railway Station they were transported to town where they just seemed to melt into Fountaine Square and Vogel St to see was offered during Woodville's Mad Hatter Tea Party.
Many of the Woodville shops were open with bargain specials while out on the footpaths visitors were offered a huge variety of unique goods ranging from hats and korowai to paintings and wollygogs, soft toys and clothing along with food from the local cafés which reported a bumper day.
More stalls on adjacent streets and a Woodville Art Society sale in the Museum distracted wanderers before they reached Fountaine Square.
There huge numbers of gazebos and marquees hosted goods both local and from considerable distances – Manawatu, Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa - offering children's books by author Kaye Arnott – her The Dog and the Mog series (at Paperplus in Pahiatua), Bobby Kopa's wonderful wood creations, Alpaca products from Bonnack Grove in Feilding, clothing, plants, stone animals and mats with a message – you name it.
Children were very well catered for, Woodville Vision volunteers setting up intriguing challenges like Splat the Rat, Footy Toss, Hoopla and Crazy Faces.
From the Rotunda, the Dannevirke Brass Band and Woodville's new choir Stand Up n' Sing provided great entertainment while Manawataki enticed locals to have a go at African drumming before putting on a hypnotic display of co-ordinated stickwork.
But the day was really about dressing up and there could have been 30 worthy winners.
The Frandsen family from Kaponga capped off a wonderful day for son Robbie – a train fanatic – by travelling from Taranaki to catch the train and then to win the Best Dressed Outfit category with the rest of his family. Mum Sharon said two hours in op shops were well spent to get the outfits.
Tiny Natalie Paterson was somewhat overwhelmed winning the Best Hat competition with the creation she designed and mum helped make. There was a terrific variety of hats – even a rat in a trap by rail volunteer Athol Gibson.
When the call came to catch the buses back to the train for the 2.30 pm departure the visitors and locals had had a great day, some returned a little sunburnt and possibly tired, ready for their spectacular return through the Manawatu Gorge.
Woodville Vision chairwoman Vicky Tomlinson and her team put on a wonderful day benefiting the visitors and the whole town.