This year is about putting ‘agriculture’ back into A&P — rural business, education and on-farm industry

The Whangarei A&P Society is taking Northland's largest agricultural show back to the future.

The Summer Show at the Barge Showgrounds in Maunu on December 5-6 will have no merry-go-rounds and other carnival attractions. While the fun fair adds noise and colour to the show, it is not related to the agricultural sector at all.

The show is returning to its roots and is about demonstrating pride in the land and in the produce generated from it - whether this is the finest animal, the highest performing horse or pony or merely the sharing of information for the education of others.

The show will return to core agricultural objectives and reintroduce past traditions of A&P shows such as home industry classes including baking, brewing, crafts, preserves, photography and woodwork.

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There will be cupcakes, muffins, knitting, artwork, pickles, best dressed gumboots and much much more returning to the show.

The first Whangarei shows were held at John Rust's sale yards, now 23 Rust Ave in the heart of Whangarei city, and then in Eugene Cafler's paddock where the Bank of New Zealand stands today.

In 1897, the show's agricultural classes were small but of good quality and included horses, both draught and bloodstock, male and female riders, Jersey and Shorthorn cattle, sheep, poultry and pigs. Indoor exhibits included dairy, baking, ham and bacon and flowers.

In later years, after the society became incorporated under the 1902 Agricultural and Pastoral Societies Act (meaning it could raise loans to purchase farmland and build a grandstand), it purchased Kensington Park, which at the time was the town's race track.

There were no permanent facilities available at Kensington Park to house home produce, poultry, floral exhibits and the like and although the exact start date is unclear, in 1916 a winter show was introduced (it was held in Vine St) to complement the summer show and its popularity grew.


Venue woes

In later years the winter show was held in Walton St in its own building and the Drill Hall belonging to the Defence Department. The winter show moved to new buildings in Dent Street in 1952, where it continued until it was put into recess in 1995 as the building was to be demolished to make way for roading and development.

From its earliest times the use of the grounds at Kensington caused squabbles as the different user groups - racing, sport and the show - had different needs.

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The constant tug of war for the use of Kensington Park eventually led to the Summer Show being held there for the last time in 1990. Since 1991 the Summer Show has been held at Barge Showgrounds in Maunu Rd.

Almost 150 years on, the Whangarei A&P Show is still the largest agricultural event of its kind in Northland and it continues to build on its long and successful reputation of bringing the country to town.

A dedicated careers marquee showcasing educational providers who provide agricultural training courses will be part of the show this year.

And all the livestock are coming on December 6, which will make the animals a huge feature.

Similar businesses will be grouped together where possible and a big push is being made to bring back some of the rural corporate businesses who have not been at the show for a while.

There will still be some rides and entertainment for youngsters, including pony rides, bumper balls, mini jeeps, inflatables and the popular Big Dig treasure hunt.