70th Mt Benger show marked in style

Draught horses and house cows no longer warrant a section dedicated to them at the Mt Benger A & P Show but other elements of the first show are still going strong, 70 years on.

The attendance at Saturday's show, held at the Roxburgh Sportsgrounds, was ''brilliant'' and the public rated it the best for many years, show president Judith Speden said.

''They were really impressed - it was the best show entries-wise, with entries up in every category, and weather-wise, with a sunny day, and they were happy with all the entertainment. People were still coming through the gate all afternoon and they didn't want to leave, '' Miss Speden said.

Although attendance figures and gate-takings were not yet finalised, it was definitely a bigger crowd than usual and a fitting way to mark the 70th show. Miss Speden paid tribute to the long service given by volunteers over the years and said some descendants of the first committee members were still involved. She made special mention of the contribution made by committee members and long-time exhibitors Dick Hill and Gwen and Harold Gloag, who had all died within the past six months. Bill Bain officially opened the show, on behalf of the organisation's life members, and said his family had been ''deeply involved'' in the event over the years. His father was the first secretary. He had attended 67 of the 70 shows, the first as a baby.

The early years had been dominated by horse entries, but sheep and cattle were also represented, along with a special class for draught horses and house cows.

''The horse section has remained strong over the years and the same surnames are listed as regular competitors over the years. There has also been great rivalry among the exhibitors in the fruit and vegetable sections.''

Mr Bain said the majority of the shows had scored fine weather, but at least two were ''cancelled by lunchtime'' because of rain.

''In 1997 the show was cancelled and our mother was to officially open that show, but she didn't get the opportunity, so I guess I'm representing her as well today.''

Eight life members were presented with certificates on Saturday, marking their contribution to the organisation. That number included the show's trade space marshal, Ralph Nichol, who was surprised to be called to the ceremony and

have life membership conferred. Miss Speden said the show entertainment appealed to a wide cross-section of the community. The West Otago Vintage Machinery Club's display of ''dancing tractors'' was a real hit. Other activities which proved popular included the rock climbing, agri-sports, bark-up and the big dig.

- lynda.van.kempen@odt.co.nz