Waikato events are at the forefront of this year's NZ Events Association NZ Event Awards, with seven nominations.
The 2021 awards saw a record number of 108 entries, with the new category Best Covid-19 Response for an Event receiving a quarter of all entries. Entries were open for events that took place between 2 September 2019 and 5 April 2021.
The Waikato nominees are the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2021 as Best Arts or Cultural Event, Balloons over Waikato for Best Community or Not-for-Profit Event 2021 and Waitomo Glowworm Caves Underground Sounds for Best Music Event.
Whangamata Beach Hop Legend Noddy Graeme Watts is nominated as Best Established Event Professional, Claudelands Oval for SIX60 Saturdays is nominated in the category Best Venue and Fieldays online as well as Water New Zealand Conference and Expo 2020 are nominated in the new category Best Covid-19 Response for an Event.
General Manager for Balloons over Waikato Michele Connell says: "We are thrilled to be a finalist! We didn't expect to be up there, especially not with the record number of entries this year. We have some tough competition, but everyone up there will be a worthy winner."
Hamilton & Waikato Tourism chief executive Jason Dawson said he was excited to see Waikato strongly represented in the finalists.
"We know that hosting major events and conferences are crucial to lead the economic and social recovery of the Waikato region. Tourism New Zealand research indicates that up to one-third of domestic travel is primarily driven by people looking to participate in events."
"It's fantastic to see such a strong result for the region given the tough environment the sector has been operating in over the last 18 months."
Ségolène de Fontenay, general manager of the NZ Events Association (NZEA), says the record numbers of entries are remarkable given the impacts of Covid-19 during the qualifying period.
"The Awards campaign has grown year on year for the past three years, but we're blown away by how many have entered this year, despite the difficulties they've faced."
De Fontenay says the purpose of the awards used to be recognising excellence, promoting best practice and creativity, raising awareness of the events sector and celebrating the contribution of the industry.
"But this year we also needed to recognise the resilience, flexibility and responsiveness of the industry under the trying circumstances and uncertainty of the global Covid-19 pandemic."
Fieldays Online, created last year when the physical event couldn't go ahead due to Covid-19, attracted 90,455 total digital visitors, with attendees from over 75 different countries and nearly 300 exhibitors hosting digital sites.
Chief executive of the New Zealand National Fieldays Society, Peter Nation, says Fieldays Online was a world first for an agricultural event of its kind at the time. "Launching Fieldays Online was no small feat – the team created the platform out of necessity under trying circumstances, and it is now a vital component of our digital road map moving forward."
"We are very proud to be shortlisted among other heavy hitters in the industry, who can be proud of their resilience, innovation, and quick thinking that brought their events to fruition, and maintained the strength of the industry."
De Fontenay says the Awards add credibility and status, showcase the industry's best practises, inspire and motivate others, and encourage continuous development.
"We do this by judging events on the 'how' as well as the 'what', and we love hearing the inspiring stories of resilience from our sector."
Due to the record number of entries, the judging panel was expanded this year and de Fontenay says this meant the panel of 20 judges was even more representative of the industry.
"The judges were particularly impressed with the quality of entrants this year and felt that once applicants had again raised the bar in creativity, innovation, adaptability, professionalism and sustainability. One of the judges commented that the Awards will, in some ways, be a celebration of success in the face of adversity."
The winners will be announced at a Gala Evening in Hastings on September 30.