New Zealand's two big season-opening shearing and woolhandling championships are going ahead under Level 2 restrictions.
The New Zealand Merino Shears will take place in Alexandra on October 1-2, and the New Zealand Spring Shears will follow in Waimate on October 8-9.
With each stand-alone stadium event expecting over 100 competitors, organisers are calling for early entries in order to manage the number of people in the hall at any one time.
Therefore, they won't be accepting late entries, and the general public won't be able to attend.
Entries for Alexandra close on Sunday (September 26), and organisers of both shows say entry fees will be refunded if the events do have to be cancelled.
They will also be putting in place all the required precautions and steps needed to protect the safety of all involved.
This includes restricted numbers indoors, contact tracing scanning and recording procedures, hand-sanitising, social distancing and compulsory wearing of face-masks, except when competing.
However, the pandemic has still taken its toll on the start of the season in the North Island, with the cancellation of the first three A and P shows on the east coast – Poverty Bay, which was to have been held in Gisborne on October 15-16, Hawke's Bay (Hastings, October 20-22) and Wairarapa (Carterton, October 29-30).
Long-standing shearing and woolhandling competitions were scheduled for all three, but none are expected to take place, although Wairarapa shearing convener Allan Grant said his team would "look at options" for running a stand-alone event, as they tried to avoid cancellation for the second year in a row.
The news is as good as it can be for the 60th Merino Championships, and the start of the 50th season for the national shearing – incorporating the McSkimming Memorial Triple Crown initiated in Alexandra in 1972.
The Circuit is now known as the PGG Wrightson Vetmed National Shearing Circuit and incorporates rounds at Alexandra (fine wool), Waimate (strong wool), Christchurch (Corriedales), Marton (lambs) and Pahiatua (second-shear), with semi-finals and the final at the Golden Shears in Masterton in March.
Alexandra chairman Greg Stuart said more than 100 entries had been received for the Merino Championships by Monday this week.
Among them were 19 in the Circuit, for which Alexandra is a compulsory leg.
Circuit and Waimate show chairman Warren White said allowances were being made for shearers who had entered to still be able to compete in circuit shows if Covid restrictions stopped them from competing in any leg.
Alexandra's Molyneux Stadium will host woolhandling from heats to finals in all three grades on Friday, October 1, and shearing in the open and senior grades on Saturday, October 2, with reporting at 8am on each day.
Unfortunately, the popular Contractors shearing and woolhandling teams event had to be cancelled to help comply with the heighted Covid requirements.
Waimate's own purpose-built but multi-use stadium will also stage all woolhandling on its event's opening day, along with the national winter-comb open and senior shearing championships, with all of those events also on Merino sheep.
The Spring Shears shearing in open, senior, intermediate, junior and novice grades will take place on Saturday, October 2.
The pandemic caused an early cancellation of what would have been the 60th celebration at Alexandra last year, but Stuart said the committee knew "a lot more" now than it did 12 months ago and was up to the challenges.
Organisers of about 60 competitions scheduled throughout the country are maintaining high hopes of staging their events, including Ellesmere's 150th anniversary Selwyn Show in Leeston on October 16 and the Northern A and P Show in Rangiora on October 23, both of which were cancelled last year.