Monday, February 06, 2006

A Day Out - in Gore

is still a day out, right? When I was growing up, the main social event of the year had nothing to do with school, was not calf club day, was not Christmas or the like. Nope - every year, the big event that was never less than anticipated was the A&P show. In my pre-teens, the show we went to was the Arapohue (aka Northern Wairoa) show. Then we moved further north, and had two shows to attend every year, the Waimate North and the Kaikohe shows. We even went and saw the occasional extra show, such as at Broadwood.

Mum would always make a big picnic lunch, with bacon and egg pie a universal feature, even though we kids would only want to eat the hotdogs with fluorescent red tomato sauce and candyfloss spun onto a stick as we watched. Sometimes dad would have livestock to show, I think I may have even entered the baking section once or twice. The days were always a flurry of activity, checking out the new cars (our only opportunuty to actually sit in a brand new car) and tractors (and being so excited to find that a tractor had a horn. A horn!), cramming in as much bad food as we could afford (not much) and, of course, spending loads of time at the sideshows - the shooting gallery with the airguns that would never shoot straight, the grinning gnome things that would let you win truly awful prizes, the ferris wheel and Merry-go round. I hated the ferris wheel. Best of all were the dodgems - not these silly electric things that won't accelerate, but proper ones, with zippy Briggs & Stratton motors and a steel protective band around their perimeter. You always hoped not to be the one with the slipping clutch, because then you were everyone's target. Because, yes, dodgems were all about the crashes, at as high a speed as possible. Even better if you could take someone by surpise.

I'm not entirely sure what my parents did, although it was always a good chance for them to catch up with people they'd not seen since the last show and, just as often as mum would make bacon and egg pie for lunch, they'd spend the last couple of hours or more of the day in the booth (I really don't know why the bar was always called the booth, but it was).

As I grew older, I grew to appreciate the dressage and other horse riding competitions, as that was where all the pretty girls were. When dad found himself on the committee and actually working on show days, I'd help him, proud to wear my assistant steward ribbon. Although neither of us had any particular interest in Red Angus cattle or wood-chopping, it was in these two events that we would be involved.

It is more than 20 years since I've been to a Northland A&P show. I did go to the Palmerston North one once, but it was all citified, with lots of stalls selling all sorts of crap that you normally only see in informercials. I also drove up to the Christchurch one, as that ranks highly in the A&P show universe but, alas, my timing was off and I was there a whole week early. But when I heard that the Gore A&P show was on 4 February, I decided it must be about the most A&P'ish of all A&P shows and that it would be nice to re-connect.

They had something I've never seen at such a show - the local Pioneer museum had brought in a collection of vintage farm equipment and cars. Taking pride of place was the Burrell compound engine, just like the one in the picture (I can't make a copy for here, but it can be clicked through to) beautifully restored and gently hissing steam. Not surprisingly, I guess, there were several vehicles in the lineup that I have driven, such as the Massey Ferguson 35:

or, a car I still own, the Rover P6 3.5 V8:

This one is a LOT nicer than mine, however, but very similar to the one on display.

There were also plenty of pens of sheep of various sorts, but not so many cattle and no stud breeds at all, as far as I could tell. Instead, it was more like a glorified calf club day, with different breeds being shown together. No wood-cutting at all. No cakes. A few women had some handcrafts on display and, just to illustrate how soft everyone has got, there was a photo competition. Shocking.

One major disappointment was the food: they've rationalised things so that candyfloss comes in bags and is sold from the hotdog caravan. And the chips and hotdogs were actually tasty, looking as if they might have been cooked in clean oil. The horror! The horror! And the booth! It was a tiny wee tent, with a sign outside saying "Hospitality Venue". At least they had scones to eat.

Ooh - and another flashback: I saw some of the entrance tickets sitting in the vintage cars - they are still categorised into "members", "ladies" and "children". Nice.

After the show, I wandered the streets of Gore for a bit: the Green Room Cafe is reputedly the best in town, but once again it was closed by the time I got there. I did learn one thing: the Books Etc shop in H & J Smiths of Gorse seems to be really good at buying books I like and then not finding an audience, with the result that they had Jasper Fforde, Neal Stephenson, Mario Vargo Llosa books for sale for less than $10. And being car country, the Paper Plus had the best colection of car mags I have ever seen.


Anonymous Tricia/Tomatohead/Schoberlew said...

Nice reminscing and nice review of the Gore A&P.

If you ever come to the States, we'll take you to the County Fair in Sept. You can experience a parallelish universe, perhaps.

1:26 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home