Anger, sadness at 'Hay Family' fire

Hannah McKenzie (17), from Christchurch, comforts Charly Light (2), from Christchurch, after...
Hannah McKenzie (17), from Christchurch, comforts Charly Light (2), from Christchurch, after Kurow's 'Hay Family' attraction was destoyed by fire yesterday. Photo by Andrew Ashton.
The Hay Family as they were in December. Photo by David Bruce.
The Hay Family as they were in December. Photo by David Bruce.

Residents and tourists in Kurow yesterday expressed anger and disappointment after the town's most prominent summer tourist attraction was destroyed by fire.

Every December for more than 20 years, Kurow's ''Hay Family'', huge stacks of hay decorated like people and children's characters, have appeared in the centre of town. This year they had attracted hundreds of tourists during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Kurow Museum and Information Centre co-ordinator Carron Cossens said local residents were ''shattered'' and angry.

Ms Cossens said a lot of ''rich language'' had been used to describe what people thought of the incident.

''People are absolutely shattered and that's the best word I can use.

''I think it is really about trashing the work of volunteers as much as it is about destroying an icon for our area.''

She said the loss of the Hay Family would impact on tourism in the town.

''People were stopping to photograph themselves there, then heading to the shops to have an ice cream.''

The Slee family from Kurow has been involved in the annual decoration of the hay bales for more than 20 years, and Janina Slee said the incident was ''really disappointing''.

Mrs Slee said she and about nine other volunteers had spent about five hours painting and stacking the hay bales, which were this year decorated to look like the Minions from the movie Despicable Me.

''We were thinking about putting a reward out for information leading to a prosecution, but I don't know if we will go ahead with that or not. But it would be nice to catch someone involved anyway.''

The bales would have been due to come down at the end of the month, so the Hay Family would not return until next year, she said.

Kurow Volunteer Fire Brigade Deputy Chief Fire Officer Richard Nehoff said the brigade was called to the fire at 3am, and spent two hours extinguishing flames. It was called back at 7.45am, after the flames reignited.

He said volunteers spent a total of six hours fighting the fire and used about 16,000 litres of water.

He said he could remember only one other similar incident in the past 20 years.

The cause of the fire was not yet known, he said.

Hannah McKenzie (17), from Christchurch, said she was in Kurow on holiday with friends and they had all been disappointed at the loss of the Hay Family.

''We saw them yesterday, but now they're gone.''

She said her friend's 2-year-old daughter was particularly upset.

''She thought they were pretty cool.''


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