Two sleeps to go. However, my memories of the New Zealand National Agricultural Fieldays date back more than 20 years in a year when we're set to celebrate 50 years of Fieldays!
Most of my memories are extremely positive, after all Fieldays is the biggest agricultural gig in town, even though it's all about the country! However, it would be fair to say I didn't cover myself in glory on my first foray to Mystery Creek in the 1990's. My memory is somewhat foggy and the exact year eludes me, which will become apparent shortly for obvious reasons.
But first I want to go back another decade, to 1982, when fate and fortune intervened on what should have been my first visit to the 'Tron for Fieldays.
Back then I was a young buck taking a gap year from the family farm in Southland to broaden my farming horizons at Lincoln College. All my rugby mates back home were farmers, shearers, truck drivers or freezing workers and I was a bit sad to leave them and the local footy team behind while I went in pursuit of a Dip Ag.
So while I was in Christchurch, the aforementioned mates decided to broaden their horizons by heading to Hamilton for the Fieldays. I'm not too proud to admit to a bit of jealousy about their jaunt, especially when they came home with tall tales of what they'd got up to in the Big Smoke of the 'Tron.
They even managed to buy some farming stuff while there and they reckoned Mystery Creek was a real eye opener when it came to new farming technology. Bear in mind back in 1982 the field days on their own back door step, the Southern Field Days at Waimumu just outside of Gore, had only just begun that year with a handful of exhibitors.
Fast forward a decade and a bit and I'd gone from farmer to radio station owner and was tasked with leading a hit-and-run one day tour to the Fieldays for a plane load of Southland farmers. It was the brain child of the then chief executive of CRT Southland, Sue Lindsay. The idea was to charter a direct flight out of Invercargill to Hamilton, leaving at 6am and returning much later that evening at about 9pm.
All of the sponsoring companies (of which Radio Hokonui was one) had to come up with a contribution to the passengers' goodie bags. Mine was cheap radio station-branded sunglasses, a poor man's version of the Dirty Dog wrap-arounds made infamous at the time by Winston's NZ First henchmen, Tau Henare and Tuku Morgan.
The day had dawned fine in Hamilton but it soon unravelled when the lenses from the aforementioned sunglasses started to pop out involuntarily. I was so embarrassed to see these Southland farmers wandering around Mystery Creek looking like Captain Hook and I really regretted my parsimonious purchase.
For my part I wandered around Fieldays hectically recording my lunchtime radio show on my new-fangled cell phone (as they were known in the '90s). By 1pm it was job done, time for lunch and a quick beer. I'd already been on the job for eight hours and felt I'd earned one. And that's when the wheels began to fall off.
It started to bucket down so a few of my fellow tour sponsors decided to have another beer rather than risk getting soaked whilst taking in all Mystery Creek had to offer. Two beers turned to three and gradually over the course of the afternoon nearly all of our tourists joined us at the bar. It turned into a right old Southland party!
By the time we boarded our bus to catch our charter flight back to Invercargill, some of us were slightly the worse for wear. My job was to MC festivities on the plane as we had lots of spot prizes and sponsor giveaways. My only recollection of the flight home was waking up somewhere over the top half of the South Island, telling an inappropriate joke, and falling back into an ale-induced slumber. I'm still embarrassed to this day when I meet some of those passengers!
Fortunately, I've grown up a bit since then and have been back to Mystery Creek almost every year since to broadcast my radio show. I reckon I'm close to notching 20 appearances from the 49 Fieldays thus far.
From a radio perspective, you can't beat Mystery Creek for client networking and interviewing the key players in New Zealand agribusiness. It's the who's who of farming, all mustered into one big Waikato paddock.
But Fieldays wouldn't be Fieldays without a healthy side-serving of social activity. My favourite event is the annual Norwood dealers function. Guest speakers over recent years have included Richard Loe, Andrew Hore, Stephen Donald and the late great Sir Colin Meads.
This year it's the turn of a man who didn't quite make the All Blacks but who made three All Blacks. The new Norwood Ambassador Kevin 'Smiley' Barrett, along with a generous helping of genetics from wife Robyn, rolled Beauden, Scott and Jordie off the breeding production line.
It's just another fine example of the farming and footy factory that produced the likes of the Brownlie, Clarke, Meads, Going and Whitelock brothers.
- Jamie Mackay is the host of The Country which airs on Newstalk ZB and Radio Sport, 12-1pm, weekdays.