New Zealand’s country shows are a fun day out for both locals and visitors. Shows include:
- competitions – for the best farm animals, products such as wool, and activities like sheep shearing, wood chopping and horse riding
- displays of farm machinery
- other competitions, for everything from cakes, knitting and jam to baby contests, Highland dancing, gumboot throwing, and beauty contests
- sideshows – shooting galleries, merry-go-rounds and other rides
- entertainment – music, horse-riding stunts, fireworks and more.
The first country show in New Zealand was held in 1842 in the Bay of Islands. Farmers set up A & P (agricultural and pastoral) societies, which held shows to promote good farming methods. By the 1950s there were more than 100 shows in different parts of New Zealand. Each show was held annually, between October and March.
The A & P societies bought land where they could hold their show each year. The best showgrounds were close to town, and had:
- a railway link, so the animals could be brought to the show by train
- sheep pens
- horse stalls
- a show-ring with a grandstand overlooking it
- grass and trees for picnics and parking.
The Grand Parade is the highlight of the show, and is usually held on the last afternoon. The prize-winning horses and cows, and the farm machines, parade around the ring.
At first, shows were purely competitions for the best farm animals and crops. Farmers came along to learn more about farming and new machines. Later, shows included other competitions, sideshows and entertainment – they were not just for farmers, but were fun for other people too.
As the A & P shows became mainly entertainment, field days began, aimed at farmers. At these events, new machines and farming implements are on display.