The National Party descended on Hawke's Bay in the midst of a heatwave to prepare for the year ahead.
Temperatures were forecast to hit 36C.
Outside the Havelock North Function Centre the hydrangeas slumped with exhaustion. Inside the politicians also slumped until the air con was fixed.
The new candidates were there, full of excitement about their first major official National Party event. They included Christopher Luxon, who arrived late fresh from watching the Australian Open tennis in Melbourne.
There was a hatched, matched and dispatched theme. The hatched was MP Hamish Walker's new baby daughter. The matched was MP Dan Bidois' engagement.
The attempted dispatch was of New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.
On the first day, National leader Simon Bridges unequivocally ruled out working with NZ First after the election.
Inside the caucus room, the sigh of relief almost drowned out the applause.
One MP later described it as "cathartic".
In the end the biggest controversy in that caucus room was Alfred Ngaro's claim that he was the best at putting up hoardings. The boos and jeers got the media running, thinking there had been a coup.
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But there is always a white-knuckle phase after such an announcement as the MPs wait to see how voters receive the news.
Speakers included Nick Westenberg, from the Liberals in Australia.
Westenberg spoke on how Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had won over the "quiet Australians" that Morrison had put his success down to.
The advice was simple: Listen to the issues they raise, and then do something to fix them.
After that session, Bridges took to the streets to test drive his listening, his "quiet New Zealander" lines and his NZ First decision on local business owners.
The first meeting was a set-up by local MP Lawrence Yule. It was former National Party MP Jeff Whittaker, who runs a pharmacy in town.
Whittaker was full of praise for the Peters decision. He had sat behind Peters from 1990 to 1993 when Peters was in the National Party.
At a clothing store up the road Bridges met Kate.
Kate was the perfect example of a "quiet New Zealander".
She did not care for political games. She cared about her business, and her family and the local school.
She had voted for National when John Key was Prime Minister. But she was a swinging voter - she had voted for "Jacinda" in 2017 and was likely to do so again.
But afterwards Kate said Bridges seemed a lot nicer in person than on television.
Many others were National supporters - it was safe National turf.
A cafe owner, a solid National voter, said he would vote National again but it had not been the same since "the big man" [John Key] had left.
What will please Bridges was the response to the decision to cut off Winston Peters.
Given Bridges had ruled out Peters early so he would not have to talk about Peters for the whole campaign, he was certainly keen to talk about him in Havelock North.
Some people called out very hearty congratulations. Almost everybody he came across, he asked what they thought.
The general response was "good on you".
Only one person had not heard about it all. That was in a design shop, where Bridges had greatly admired a selection of ceramics, picking out a hippo as his favourite.
"A little-known fact about the hippopotamus is that they can run several times faster than humans," he said. "Very fast."
Bridges tried out his "quiet New Zealander" lines on each of them. He dangled a four-lane highway from Napier to Hastings in front of them.
There was his question about their concerns as small businesses. They talked to him about wages, staff, local issues, regulations, taxes and water.
There was Bridges gangs pitch, which he abandoned after it got little traction on the first two occasions.
Then there was his own pitch - the small talk.
At the jewellers, he admired the shiny things: "I've always thought I'd like to be a jeweller," he said.
At the butchers he admired the rows of locally sourced meat. "I've always thought I'd like to be a butcher," he said.
At least he will have some fall-back options should the Winston Peters decision backfire.