VENUE: Mystery Creek Events Centre - Hamilton
DATES: Wed 13th to Sat 16th June 2012

Last year I was at Fieldays as a volunteer working the gates to help raise funds for our local Scout group. This year, I went as Media. It really did make a difference, as it meant I was able to get in an hour before gates opened to the public, and leave an hour after gates closed... which left me PLENTY of time to wander around and see the sights, organise time to chat with various folks, arrange a helicopter ride to try and shoot some aerial footage, and basically see the whole place without a huge rush on the first day. The second day would then be free to do any follow-up to meetings from the first day, come back with info as needed, or basically just do the whole "chill and wander" thing. At least, that was the plan.

The weather was wonderful on the Wednesday afternoon, with clear skies and warm'ish sun... but the morning was freezing. Literally. At one point I was told that in one of the big tents, the temperature at 8:00am had RISEN to -5 degrees Celsius... RISEN to that! I had to laugh at the tales of coffee machines left overnight with liquid in them, refusing to function until they had time to thaw out. I felt for those machines, I really did! By 3 o'clock when it was time to hop in a chopper and get airbourne, my poor Sony HandyCam was still malfunctioning badly from the moisture, and what I thought was going to be some great footage of the event from the air turned out to be badly mangled tape and a badly scratched recording head - basically, the camera is a paperweight until I can get it repaired. Thankfully, at least my Canon point'n'shoot fared better (having spent far more time in my pockets and hands) and I was able to take many a snapshot.

So... how did Fieldays clock up overall? Well, if you were lucky enough to avoid the worst of the weather, and smart enough not to bring strollers and little kids, then it was amazing really. Great deals everywhere, from the small tools and "Seen on TV" type products, right up the biggest farm equipment I have ever seen! I stood next to a tracktor that didn't have wheels - it had four all-terrain tracks instead and it was HUGE! Easily the size of a room, this thing must be for hauling some SERIOUS gear around the farm. It would not look out of place on the set of an "alien planet" movie. Hehehe, change the grill figurehead a bit and it could have fit right in to any of the Transformer movies. ;)

The venue was chopped almost in to quarters. Looking down on the venue from Gate 2 atop the hill, the far left quadrant was mainly heavy machinery. The far right quadrant was all of the "shopping" areas for the bargain hunter who has less than $30,000 to spend. That's also where some of the less agricultural displays and shows happened, such as the Helicopter rides put on by Volcanic Air Safaris, the stunt bikes and the horse shows. The front right quadrant was all of your fruit and poultry stalls, with a lot of vets, food stalls, and mid-range farming supply companies, and finally the front-left quadrant was mainly to do with farm buildings and dairy shed equipment, as well as some other esoterica like log milling and the tractor-pulls shows. And of course, we hads the centre complex, with all of your indoor stuff, such as the electronics, and housewares. So, Day one had me mostly on the right-hand side of Mystery Creek, chatting to those of our suppliers who had put in an appearance, chatting to companies who could make good use of our free service, and just generally wandering around getting inspired by some new technologies, some old technologies that have been upgraded, and a lot of food stands... plus the odd sit-down in the "Best of Kiwi" tent demo kitchen while talented food artists showed me just what magic can be created in the kitchen. Suffice to say, I came home inspired alright, and my family has a few new meals to look forward to.

Day 2, Friday, gave me an opportunity to follow up with some of the prospective new suppliers, some of which had taken the chance to look over our site, got inspired themselves, and had review goods ready to hand me when I saw them first-thing Friday morning... in the cold... and rain... and cold... but you know what, by about 11am it was fine more than it was wet, all the walking around and laughing at a rather posey politian I won't name -cough Prime Minister cough- who was clearly there more to pose and offer camera opportunities than to actually serve any real function, warmed me up nicely. By 1pm I had done all my "business talks" and was ready to just wander around and relax. This proved remarkably easy to do, and gave me the opportunity to spend a bit more time sitting in that inspirational kitchen tent and learn more wonderful new things. What really made me blush is when, while approaching the kitchen but still out of sight, I heard a guest chef - Ant from St Andrew's Limes - say "If you want to know more about our products, you can read all about them on our website, or go to www.KIWIreviews.co.nz and you can read their opinions and reviews too!" Then he saw me peeking around one side of the raised seating, pointed to me and said "Oh hey! There's the chap from KIWIreviews now! Go have a chat to him after the show." I didn't know whether to rush up on stage and hug him, take a bow, or blush and run! -lol-

Was Fieldays worth going to, for a non-farmer? Most definitely yes! There was more than enough for everyone from almost every walk of life. The only warnings I would offer are this: Arrive early to get good parking and leave early to avoid traffic jams, bring wet weather gear, dress warm but with the ability to peel layers off easily, and if it has wheels on it then leave it at home! Seriously, the walkways were churned mud by the time lunchtime rolled around, and trying to get a pram or stroller through the crowds in some areas is just plain dreaming! For the babes consider a frontpack or backpack, for the young kids consider a babysitter. There were too many near-misses cause by small children running amok and more than a few parents clearly not having any enjoyment while stressing about the kids.

Would I pay to go to it next year? Sure would... although I would of course be a little pickier about where I ventured, as I would only go for one day and not have the extra hours afforded by Media access. This is an event that, so far, has provided me with something new both years I have attended. I can't say all of it appealed to me, but really there was just so much there, there was indeed something for everyone. Fashion shows, craft stalls, food galore, bargains both small, huge, and everything in between, shows and rides... and more than enough gear to -ohhh- and -ahhh- over to keep anyone occupied for an entire day. Seriously, this event is something I don't see getting stale any time soon! Just, PLEASE, keep the politicians out of it next time will ya? ;)

For our photos of the event, please have a look at our Facebook Album: http://on.fb.me/MTL1PY

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