Ralph, a long-time associate of the Winter Show in both entertainment and administrative roles, says he is eager to get the show back to its roots as a community, rural-based show.
His first association with the show was as a visitor. He fondly recalls wading through a sea of cars on what is now Claudelands Park as a wide-eyed farm boy, before entering the building to delight in the rural wonders within.
“You’d see everyone’s produce – the largest pumpkin, the best shaped potato, as well as marvellous cakes and jams. My mum used to compete, along with most of the district.”
In 2010, his alter ego Major Blunder of the Fifth Waikato Dragoons Regiment was approached by the show to host one of their infamous battle re-enactments.
These battles have been hosted in clubs and schools across the Waikato, with adults and children alike donning cardboard suits of armour and marching forth with paper sword in hand to re-enact famous battles from history, all in the name of “jolly good fun.”
And according to the Major, the first Winter Show battle was a roaring success.
“It was done on a very fine pirate ship made out of hay-bales. Good fun, you know! Boarding actions, and all that.”
After a one-year hiatus of the show in 2011, the Major returned to the 2012 show for several children’s battles – again strictly for entertainment purposes, of course. Nothing at all to do with their convenient placement next to some “delicious” Korean pancakes.
Ralph went on to co-ordinate the Clubs and Creativity Showcase Expo within the show, which involves everything from Aikido to the Regiment, Freemasons to the Hamilton Scrabble Club.
He says the Expo is a cultural opportunity that allows local Hamiltonians to “get off their bums and do stuff.”
Having had committee involvement in the show as an Expo co-ordinator, the time was ripe this September for his election to the illustrious role of President, filling the shoes of previous president Noel Gleeson.
“I’m coming from a background of governance… I’ve had 30 years’ experience of governance in various organisations, where you take the overview rather than the hands-on management, however I have had hands-on experience as well,” Ralph says.
“If you are working for the interests of the organisation, then the organisation must be able to continue far beyond you, and you must plan for that.”
He describes his vision as being that of a “100-year plan”, and feels it is necessary to ensure the show will not be a ‘victim of agendas’ – “The show is unique in New Zealand in that we are a community show, very much of, for, and by the community, as opposed to commercial. Originally the Winter Show was an opportunity for the rural community to show off to each other, and to the townies – let them know where their produce came from.”
However, Ralph hopes as President to expand the show, now in its 106th year, by strengthening the focus on both education and community.
“But we also have that tie to the rural community. Even though we have a population of over 150,000, we are still embedded in a rural area.
“People in New Zealand are going back to growing their own vegetables, so they know where it all comes from, so it’s not controlled by international interests, and why shouldn’t we show that off?”
Linking the rural community focus with the educational aspect is particularly important to Ralph, especially since he had to explain to one inquisitive child that an Alpaca was not in fact a sheep that had had a terrible accident.
Ralph also says the show will allow exhibitors to be independent, with the show providing a venue and the Expos bringing their own culture, style and flavour.
“What I’d like to see eventually is all of Claudelands Park filled with exhibitors. Including, by God, ploughing! Watching a tractor plough is fine if you like tractors, but watching somebody plough with horses, that is beautiful to behold.”
The new Winter Show will have a strong focus on “it has to be good for you” says Ralph, who is keen to continue with such exhibitions as the Cultural Village , the Farmyard and Well-being Show.
“The Village displays all manner of cultural niceties, including food… I’m very keen on food,” says Ralph. “We’ve had Nigerian food there, Chilean, an Argentine barbecue, some Hungarian pastry swirls, a marvellous selection.”
So while it would be more than possible for one to put on a substantial amount of weight with sufficiently vigorous sampling of the Cultural Village’s many delights, one could feel all the more cultured for having done so.
Entertainment is provided in equal measure, such as rides, equestrian games, and of course the Fifth Regiment doing battle.
“The show is a jewel in the crown of Hamilton… or has been, and should be again, because it’s unique. There are other shows, but they don’t have that community focus.”
- The next show will be April 10-12, 2015. Entry is $5 per head, under-fives free.
Sparkling story: Ciaran Warner
Photo: Annette Taylor
Ice cream: Coastal Connection