Pies, parades and partying marked Ranfurly’s 125th birthday celebrations at the weekend.
Friday night began with the first lighting of the town’s massive Christmas tree and consumption of birthday cake.
The oldest Ranfurly-born resident, Phyllis Pett, cut the birthday cake, which was enjoyed by the gathered crowd.
The ‘‘Blue Skies Perspective’’ art exhibition, showcasing outstanding work by Maniototo artists, was opened on Friday night by Sir Grahame Sydney and drew crowds all weekend.
There was an exceptionally high standard and variety of work on show from photography to pastels to harakeke weaving.
Saturday’s family fun day drew crowds bigger than the population of Ranfurly to enjoy free activities and entertainment.
Children lined up for Pippity-Pop balloon creations and many little ones ran around delighted with their balloon hats and painted faces.
Adults were entertained by the band Saggy Britches and were able to check out the market stalls.
People of all ages were intrigued with displays by emergency services and Civil Defence.
Ranfurly 125 family fun day convener Shirley Clarke could not stop smiling as the day unfolded.
December 1 marked 125 years since the first train rolled into Ranfurly, she said.
‘‘We’re here for the rail.’’
The only train running on Saturday was Noddy’s one, operated by Maniototo Lions Club member Eric Swinburn. It might have been a little smaller and slower than the one that arrived 125 years ago but it was enormously popular.
More than 1000 people attended the family fun day on Saturday. There were market stalls and food vendors with goods for sale but everything else on the day was free, thanks to sponsors and the amazing Ranfurly community, Ms Clarke said.
Old-fashioned games, organised by Maniototo Area School staff were popular as were the bouncy castle and bucking bronco, while the grand parade — featuring everything from a Model A truck to a mobile mai mai — drew everyone to the centre of the showgrounds.
While the day was relaxed in the best laid back country way there was one highly competitive element.
The Great Ranfurly Bake-Off was popular with more than 20 pies entered. Judges, chef Michael Coughlin and author Matt Chisholm, took their roles very seriously with Mr Coughlin creating a scoring sheet.
Their roles had been hotly contested with Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan revealing on the day he had offered to judge the contest but had been turned down.
Before a single cut was made each pie was evaluated for its appearance.
Then the pair continued to examine each offering with an extensive list of considerations including balance of filling to pie, flavour, texture and uniform cooking of top and bottom pastry.
Mr Coughlin said everyone started with full marks and then he deducted points as he went.
Mr Chisholm said judging pies was new to him and he paid tribute to everyone who entered. ‘‘I’ve never made one apple pie.’’ Having arrived ‘‘a bit underfed’’ — having only had two slices of toast rather than his usual four — he was raring to go, he said.
After the fun day, a gala 1920s-themed dinner was attended by nearly 200 people.
The Maniototo sports stadium was transformed with the ceiling draped in swathes of fabric and tables set with candles and pearls.
Those attending took the 1920s theme to heart and turned out in a breath-taking array of sparkling outfits, headpieces and blazers.
Radio personality Jamie Mackay, the after dinner speaker, told tales about Maniototo Community Board and Central Otago District Council member Stu Duncan.
Sunday began with a church service followed by the opening of the community orchard.
Project co-ordinator Mandy Groshinski said it was made up of 20 apple and pears trees grafted from trees around the Maniototo, some well over 125-years-old.
They hoped the trees would be a living memory of the celebrations and the fruit freely available to everyone in the town, she said.
Ranfurly 125 event coordinator Kristina Wills said money raised during the weekend would go to four community projects — a book depicting the past 25 years, to follow on from the centenary publication and signs at the town entrance and the art deco museum.
The big-ticket item they hoped to make a significant contribution to was kitting out a ute for the Ranfurly Volunteer Fire Brigade to access areas a fire engine or ambulance struggled to get to, she said.
On Sunday afternoon the weekend wound up with a cricket match in which Ranfurly took on ‘‘The World’’.