SHARE
Familiar sight . . . Ray and Lesley Fox – and their truck – have been part of the North Otago A&P Show for decades. They run the "Splat the Rat" game at the Friday night carnival, providing free fun for younger show-goers. PHOTO: SALLY BROOKER

Ray Fox has been a mainstay of the North Otago A&P Show for 54 years.

Now aged 76, the Rosebery born-and-bred farmer has moved into urban Oamaru but has not cut back on his commitment to the show. In fact, it ramped up when he and his wife, Lesley, shifted to the North End in 2013. Now he is close to the Oamaru Showgrounds and relied upon for all manner of tasks, as well as his designated roles.

Mr Fox’s first foray into the show was as a pig breeder. He joked that he needed to start a new operation on the family sheep farm to keep his bride in the manner to which she was accustomed. Mrs Fox, who was a shorthand typist before moving to the farm and raising their five children, refuses to accept responsibility, saying she was “nothing fancy”.

Mr Fox “got talked into” joining the A&P committee as the pig convener. He remained in that role until Post-weaning Multisystemic Wasting Syndrome (PMWS) arrived in New Zealand in the late 1990s.

“The pig section virtually closed down.

“They carried on for a year or two with bacon pigs and the hoof and hook competition, because they were going to the works, not back to the farm.”

Mr Fox then helped out “anywhere help was needed”at the show, including gate duties and car-parking.

He rose to the rank of North Otago A&P Association chairman in 1996. The previous year, as vice-chairman, he was in charge of entertainment.

“I’ve been on the entertainment committee ever since.”

There have been suggestions that the entertainment should be scrapped, but it has always been retained to help draw youth to the show. New attractions are always been sought and health and safety regulations have led to a higher workload for the committee.

The Charity Challenge that began last year was an adaptable event that aimed to increase participation by local people and inject fun. Teams of four tackle a series of rural-based tasks, with prize money going to their charity of choice.

When the association grounds convener, Noel Riddell, faced health problems three years ago, he told Mr Fox he’d better “take over my bunch of keys”.

Now the two men share the grounds role, Mr Riddell doing the “political” work while Mr Fox does the “labouring”. Maintenance at the large site is ongoing. Last year a roof-painting project cost $20,000. The cattle pavilion and woolshed roofs are still to be painted.

Mr Fox has used Kiwi ingenuity to help display the huge number of entries in the children’s and homecrafts sections under the grandstand. On the farm now run by his son and daughter-in-law, he found some wire mesh to which entries can be pegged and hung on a wall.

Although the A&P association has a full committee and many volunteers who act as stewards on show days, it was always looking for more helpers available year-round, he said. Meetings are held monthly.

Mrs Fox is continuing her involvement with the show. She joined Rural Women New Zealand in 1962 and has contributed many pieces of knitting and needlework to its competitions through the decades. Her eyesight now makes needlework difficult but she has some knitting entered and helps out under the grandstand.