After 45 years as Maniototo A&P Association secretary Neville Wahrlich has stepped down from the role.

However, now 82, he is still involved in the event and spent a couple of hours on the gate during last week's show, volunteering for Pakeke Lions.

An association life member, he said there had been many changes during his service, although the show had retained its social importance.

''It is an original country show with many businesses closing for the day,'' he said.

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Other changes that had contributed to the success was the inclusion of the home industries and flower show events, which had previously been separate shows.

A camper van park had been built near the showgrounds about 18 months ago and encouraged more people to ''have a look''.

Equestrian competition numbers had also grown considerably.

The standard of livestock and sheep fleeces had always been high, although numbers in the sheep and beef cattle sections had dropped during the past few years, as more farms converted to dairying.

''We are lucky to have such good breeders in the area.''

He said one of the reasons the show, which was in its 120th year, was so successful, was the timing.

The Central Otago show is held on the Saturday before and the Mt Benger show is on the Saturday after, leaving Maniototo in the middle, in its traditional Wednesday slot.

He recalled sharing an after-show drink with other committee members in a caravan, and someone hitched it to a car and drove it away.

He also remembered, after another show wind-down function, jumping over the horse jumps, without horses.

He first started being involved with A&P shows when he arrived in the Maniototo in 1953.
He first worked as a farm labourer with the Clarke family in Patearoa, who had a Corriedale sheep and shorthorn cattle stud and attended the show regularly.

Two of his daughters had horses and ponies.

''Along with the Elder and Skinner families, we would take the girls to Palmerston, Middlemarch, Omakau and Wanaka shows, so I soon found out about the way the shows were run.''

He worked as a stock agent for Donald Reid and Co from 1965, and moved to Heriot for three years, then spent four years in Palmerston before returning to Ranfurly to work as a lamb drafter for PPCS.

''In 1973 Jo Steele, who was secretary of the association at the time, decided to retire from the position.

''Having been involved with the shows over the years I thought I might as well put my name forward for the secretary's job.

''I did enjoy the secretary's position so I just kept putting my name forward for re-election each year.

''However, as age was catching up with me, I thought that I had better pass my knowledge on to someone before it was too late.

''I believe that I was one of the few male secretaries of A&P shows left in New Zealand.
''Fortunately, the association found a keen replacement and I am confident that Janine Smith will do a wonderful job with her farming background and knowledge of modern technology.''

Mr Wahrlich is president of the Ranfurly Bowling Club, and has been president of the Pakeke Lions group and the Maniototo Golf Club.

He was also a greenkeeper for 16 years.

Southern Rural Life