Hamilton's Sheepvention rural expo burst back to life on Sunday after lying dormant for a difficult, COVID-interrupted two years.
Australian cricketing icon Merv Hughes braved the low, grey skies and bone-chilling breeze to get his first taste of the event, having a relaxed yarn with passersby.
"I was born in Euroa, but I wouldn't know the first thing about farming," he told The Standard.
"It's my first time coming down to Sheepvention and it's great."
The event had been a two-day affair until 2019, opening on a Sunday evening with a fashion show and then running over full days on the Monday and Tuesday. The 2022 edition was just the second time it had run a full-day Sunday program and families had flocked in to explore.
Children found plenty to enjoy, with face painting, fairy floss, pint-sized cooking classes and circus performers among a range of attractions.
In the relative warmth of the sheds, the various sheep judging was in full swing, with a hefty bundle of ribbons awaiting worthy winners and runners-up.
Elsewhere shearers were strutting their stuff, methodically fleecing a pen of mostly compliant merinos.
ABC Landline presenter Pip Courtney had opened the event earlier in the day, her first time at Sheepvention since the mid-90s.
"I love sheep, if I wasn't a journo I would've been a wool classer," Ms Courtney said.
She said the fact the event had missed two years gave it an "extra buzz".
Elders' Hamilton branch manager Lachy Patterson said it was amazing to be at Sheepvention again.
"I think everyone was very keen to get back here, interacting with friends, colleagues and the rest of the industry," he said.
"For a lot of farmers it also gives them a chance to get off the farm and check in with everyone else. You'd be surprised how few opportunities they get."
As a Hamilton local, Mr Patterson has been coming to Sheepvention for at least 25 years. He said the change to a three-day program was great.
"I think it offers a real family focus and broader appeal. There's entertainment and good arts and crafts, so you can come as just a Hamilton person and enjoy it," he said.
Mr Patterson said the threat of foot and mouth disease had been a hot topic in his conversations with farmers.
"I think people are starting to prepare themselves, getting the materials and processes required to stop transmission if it does get here," he said.
Supply chain interruptions had been the other main challenge facing farmers in recent months, given much of the agriculture industry had gone through much of the pandemic relatively unaffected.
"We're grappling with supply issues now, which is driving up prices, but output prices have been high too, so it's been evening out so far," Mr Patterson said.
"We don't see ourselves as battlers in any way, shape or form," he said.
Sheepvention will continue through until Tuesday, with the ram sale taking place at 10am and the finals of the Farm Dog Championships running at 1pm.
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