All praise to the A&P

Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
In a world going ever more crazy, this week I choose to write in praise, says Liz Breslin.

Liz Breslin
Liz Breslin

It’s an easy feat, thanks to this weekend’s A&P show, which celebrates 80 years in Wanaka this year.

I write in praise of the Jack Russell race. Not the running of the race itself, though that is comedy gold. It’s the starting line that gets me every time. A triumph of small yappy enthusiasm over hold’em straight and get set, go. The honourable place in the Saturday line-up is a clue to how dearly the Jack Russell race is held in local hearts: it’s right before the grand parade.

I write in praise of the pony club mums who dream and drive and encourage and organise. Who scrub their children and their ponies and their tack into shining submission and roll up tiny plaits at exactly spaced intervals starting before daylight, with fingerless gloves and a head torch.

All for the five minutes (max) of turnout class, where the judge will lift up stirrups and look under tails for traces of dust or dirt or poo. I would like to give them all red ribbons.

I write in praise of a new trophy this year: the Dave Forsyth Memorial for, I think, best junior hunt member in the ring. When my daughter used to hunt, Dave was one of her favourite people. Kind, encouraging and funny. And so I write in praise of fond memorialising and keeping people’s names and legacies alive. Of honouring tradition. Of engraving names.

Praise be to surviving the Ferris wheel. The hour-long wait to get on and the 45-minute slow ride around, inevitably accompanied by one pre-schooler who really needs to go wees right now as soon as the ride actually starts, and another who decides they hate the horrid people sitting opposite and starts kicking them, rhythmically, bored. Praise be to the closest wine-tasting tent to the exit and their generosity with said wine.

I write in praise of the fun of junior homecraft. Items made of dried pasta,

ice-block-stick sculptures, emoji-decorated wine biscuits, shoebox houses, plastic brick cows: can I please be 7 years old again?

I write in praise and awe of the range of things I think I absolutely need while browsing. Including, but not limited to, tractors, harvester attachments, shiny ride-on mowers, spa pools, grown-up layers of merino clothing, wooden benches, kitsch garden signage, new schools for the kids, foot cream, forever-sharp knives and candy floss. To date, I have mostly only purchased kebabs. So I write in praise of all the people in all the tents who have to deal all day, both days, with only oglers like me.

I write in praise that the kids can go marauding off without parents, in the company of sparse pocket money and friends. Praise to the community, praise to those who travel here.

Praise be that Agriculture and Produce are still even things in this time and this place. Praise to Jane Stalker, who makes the organisation look chic and effortless and has funny stories and cold wine.

Praise for all the people who volunteer: St John, the fire brigade, the fundraising groups, the students, the helpers, the works.

I write in praise of Class 1099: Any unusual shaped vegetable. And most of the vegetable entry section, for that matter, which reads like a series of esoteric poems.

5 stalks, Rhubarb, loose

I write in praise of the homegrown hunger that comes from merely reading the preserves and jams and produce sections. I learn the difference between pickle and relish and chutney (Classes 1050-1067) and imagine them on homemade soft cheese (Class 1068) with home-grown walnuts (Class 1076) and a dash of home-grown olive oil (Class 1077) on the side. I write in mouth-watering envy of the homebrew and Golden Lamb judges, though mine, this week, is not to judge but to praise.


What a lovely piece of writing about the show. So captures what it's all about. Made my morning to read this and long live the show!