Ohakune Carrot Festival New Zealand

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Annual Carrot Carnival - Ohakune, New Zealand - 3 October 2009

 Set in this World Heritage National Park, Ohakune sits at the foot of the active volcano Mount Ruapehu. This is New Zealand's biggest ski resort and then once a year it goes vegetable crazy. The giant carrot at the entrance to the town was erected in 1984 to symbolize the importance of market gardening to the economy of the region.  It has been an important growing region for over 70 years.

The giant carrot statue is reputedly the world's largest model carrot, and was originally constructed as a prop for a television advertisement for the ANZ Bank in the early 1980s. After filming, the carrot was donated to Ohakune, in recognition of the area's reputation as the source of a high proportion of New Zealand's carrots, and installed in its current position in 1984.

In 2016 unused wasteland behind the giant carrot was turned into the Ohakune Carrot Adventure Park with five life-sized vegetables – another carrot along with a potato, brussels spout, swede and a parsnip – to keep the big carrot company, a carrot car and a Growers Heritage Path, which features bricks carrying the names of past and present growers.

John had the opportunity of visiting the Ohakune Carrot Carnival in October 2009, and a wonderful time was had by all.  The main street is closed to traffic for the day and to make room for all the carrot events and stalls and entertainment to celebrate the Town's agricultural roots.  The sun shone and everybody smiled.

There was also the chance to visit some local carrot farms and packing plants to view the operations and pick up some carrot bags for Jeff from Cleveland to add to his vast collection.

The Carrot Carnival is truly a real family affair with something for everyone. Main events included sponsored rides for the kids, street entertainers, clowns, music, stalls, children's and adult's competitions, free carrots and soup and lots of family fun, culminating in the street parade. There was also face painting and a vendor market selling a variety of goods, many of course carroty! The school art competition was a great success with many shops displaying colourful and original posters.

John was appointed the official judge of the carrot cake competitions and therefore received the enviable privilege of tasting each one! An onerous task but someone has to do it!!

(left) Ohakune Carrot Flag presented to the Carrot Museum during the visit in 2009. Now a signifacnt part of the Museum display items. (below) Images of the Carrot Festival Day

See the full Carnival Programme here.   Local press report here

Gael (left) and Lara (right) the main Carnival Organisers, showing off their carrot uniforms!

Someone getting free samples of carrot cakes!

A wearable art entrant


The art wall showing the artistic talents of local schoolchildren.

Some of the Carnival Parade Entries


The next day it snowed!!!

The next page gives some photos of the visits to various carrot farms in the locality. Here

History of Ohakune - Ohakune Township began as a small settlement alongside the through road from Raetihi to Taumarunui at the junction of the Mangawhero and Mangateitei streams. Whilst today there is plenty to do in this region, Ohakune and the surrounds offer some great insight into the heritage of New Zealand.

The area has been settled since around the 1600’s, first by the Ngati Rangi (Sky People) and Ngati Uenuku (Rainbow People) sub-tribes. Then, later in the nineteenth century, railway surveyors arrived looking for a way to travel through the Central North Island, linking Wellington in the south with Auckland in the north for transportation of goods and passengers. Once the area was opened up saw-millers arrived to take advantage of the abundance of forestry. Soon after, Chinese market gardeners and later farmers settled to work with the rich volcanic soil in the area; the bases for Ohakune’s status as the carrot capital of New Zealand.

The first market gardens in the Ohakune area were established back in 1925. Even back then Ohakune had real advantages, a railway for fast delivery, a late growing season, inexpensive land and a cold winter climate to discourage pests. Much of the land was cleared by hand and explosives before the first bulldozer arrived in 1937. More hectares were cleared and crops planted as demand increased to feed local and US military troops. After the war years, land was converted to rehabilitation farms for returning servicemen. In 1984 the ‘Big Carrot’ was unveiled at the entrance to the town, in recognition of the importance of market gardening to the local economy.

The industry continues to diversify and experiment, but carrots remain the main crop. Potatoes are also a significant vegetable here. The range of vegetables grown in this area also includes parsnips, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and swedes. Harvesting season starts around the end of February and continues through to Sept/Oct. Ground preparation begins in September. Planting will start mid September and continue through to early summer.

The nature of the industry has changed, from numerous small family businesses to about 20 much larger operators. While hard physical labour is still involved, today the industry is mechanised, with huge tractors and harvesters used in much larger fields. Market Gardeners invest in electronic monitoring equipment, custom engineered washing plant and chillers in washing sheds to ensure that fresh, high quality produce arrives at the distribution centres and markets. Ohakune has a well deserved reputation for quality produce that helps feed the nation.

Later, in the early 1950’s, the can-do spirit of the Ohakune people came to the fore as they formed the Ohakune Mountain Road Association and began the construction of an access road into the park.

The road gave access to the snow and ski slopes from Ohakune as well as providing a scenic drive route through the indigenous bush. By the mid 1960’s the road was completed to it’s present destination at Turoa. This pioneering spirit continued with the efforts to attract a commercial operator of the ski fields of Turoa.

Through its history, Ohakune has attracted all kinds of people willing to work hard to create a ‘new world’ and this has led to a vibrant, diverse people in a town that provides the opportunity for a wide variety of experiences for visitors.

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