For four days, much of Hamilton’s attention focuses on Fieldays, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest agricultural event.
Fieldays turned 50 in 2018, and is now unrecognisable compared to its humble beginnings.
Here are some facts and figures that chart the history of this Waikato phenomenon, from its city origins to an international powerhouse.
- Fieldays was first held at Te Rapa Racecourse in 1969, with a budget of $10,500.
- 18,000 people attended the first Fieldays, held over two days. The first day attracted 12,000 visitors, far exceeding the 3,000 that were expected.
- A pilot was injured at the inaugural event when his plane crashed during a flying demonstration. A brilliant last-ditch effort prevented the plane landing in the crowd!
- Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Phillip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne attended the second Fieldays in 1970, with the event rescheduled to March to accommodate the Royal Tour.
- Fieldays moved to Mystery Creek in 1971.
- According to Fieldays lore, the only assets the organising group had to offer the bank (ANZ) to secure a loan were rolls of copper wire and power poles left over from the Te Rapa event.
- Over the years, visitor numbers have grown to 50,000 (1979), 78,000 (1984), 131,000 (2008) and a record 133,588 in 2017.
- Exhibitor numbers have grown from roughly 80 in 1969, to 191 (1974), 300 (1978), and 1059 across 1400 sites in 2018.
- $492M of sales revenue was generated for New Zealand firms off the back of the 2018 Fieldays, with an impressive $168M generated for businesses in the Waikato region alone.
- A University of Waikato report estimated the total revenue contribution of Fieldays for the New Zealand economy over its first 49 years at $18B in 2018’s economic value with the GDP contribution estimated at $8B.
- Fieldays is responsible for sustaining more than 2000 full-year jobs (full-time and part-time).
- More than $1M in cash is withdrawn on the site over the four days (2017).
- Hamilton hotel rooms are fully booked approximately six months in advance.
Fieldays 2019 starts today (Wednesday 12 June) at Mystery Creek and ends on Saturday 15 June.
Hamilton City Council will be represented by the Hamilton City Libraries and Smart Hamilton teams in the Careers and Education Hub.
Hamilton City Libraries is featuring The LAB, its mobile makerspace programme for young people which engages them in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths). Smart Hamilton will be demonstrating the Council’s Intelligent Transport Systems, with maps showing where vehicles came from to get to Fieldays, where they went to at the end of the day and travel times for key routes around the event.
For more information on this year’s Fieldays and to plan your journey, visit fieldays.co.nz.
Sources: Waikato Museum’s 50 Years of Fieldays exhibition; fieldays.co.nz.
Image: Aerial shot of Fieldays event, Mystery Creek, 2017, courtesy of New Zealand National Fieldays Society.