Still having fun at 80th show

"I loved the first show, I love the 81st one ... Wanaka A&P Show veteran Bill Gibson reflects on...
"I loved the first show, I love the 81st one ... Wanaka A&P Show veteran Bill Gibson reflects on his long involvement with the show. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY

Of the 81 Wanaka A&P Shows that have been held, Bill Gibson has the remarkable distinction of having attended all but one.

"I'm an old bugger,'' the extremely sprightly Mr Gibson (89) chuckled, while surveying the action in the show ring.

The only show he missed was in 1976, when he was judging in Sydney, but the Gibson family still exhibited stock at the show that year.

Mr Gibson, who lives in Wanaka, is known as the elder statesman of the merino industry.

An absolute gentleman, he has had a a lifelong passion for the merino, inherited from his father Hector and passed on to his son Robbie, who now farms Malvern Downs at Tarras.

"I'm a lucky fellow to have lived so long,'' Mr Gibson said.

He recalled riding the merry-go-round at his first show.

In 1939, he rode a pony called Gamble from Tarras to Mount Barker, and then into Wanaka on the morning of the show.

He did not win a ribbon, but his mate did, he said, laughing.

Mr Gibson's father was on the committee that organised the very first show and meetings were held to establish where it would be held.

The likes of Hawea Flat and Cromwell were suggested but it was Wanaka - or Pembroke as it was then known - that won out.

Shows were in the family's "blood'' and he recalled starting showing sheep in Christchurch in 1956.

Mr Gibson has travelled to A&P shows all over the world and Wanaka, he believed, was the most picturesque showgrounds around.

In the early years, it was very primitive - by today's standards - with a ring and activities that included steer riding, despite there being no proper fencing to keep them in.

Robbie has carried on the family involvement and is a past president.

Malvern Downs had a team of merinos entered in the show last weekend and they were looking "all right'', he said.

He still maintained a keen interest in the stud and knew all the sheep and their sires.

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