It’s been a bad run for Christchurch event organisers with a flurry of festival failings flowing through Facebook (the source of all truth). It’s left a lot of people wondering what-the-heck-a-doodle is going wrong, that something as simple as a light show has turned into a melee of feisty family groups complaining about everything from having to find a park, then being forced to queue for hours in the freezing cold and then the ultimate indignation of being told to ‘moove a long’ like they were a herd of cattle.

It’s enough to put anyone off ever going out again.

But if there’s one thing we’ve learned is that Christchurch people don’t learn, and the whole tragedy has been played out once again – and it’s given rise to growing concerns about the mental well-being of Christchurch people.

This time a local community group put on an event in the oft-forgotten suburb of New Brighton, with the hope of bringing local residents together to talk about their feelings, hold hands and discuss the blessings of a vegan lifestyle.

The event had a limited budget, with only $7.50 allocated for advertising – unfortunately Phil (from the organising committee) had spent it on a reusable hemp bag before hitting the second-hand biscuit store to buy some reconstituted superwines.

So with no money for advertising they resorted to posting it on the crazy-cat-ladies-and-lost-dogs facebook page (aka the famous PIRNB page). Come along to the dead-cow-on-the-beach-vegan-for-life gathering on new brighton beach. All welcome. Ring 3884508 and ask for Sue to get more details. Please, no dogs.

Job done.

Well, as can happen on the ol’ friendface word started to get around, and the hype grew. Sheeples from as far away as Oxford had herd about the vegan-dead-cow-light-show-with-fireworks and were telling their friends in Palmerston North, who started getting on the dog-n-bone to their mates in Sydney to make the trip.

The dark clouds of a troubled event were brewing on the horizon and Hazel, head of security, and her three helpers (Hazel’s grandkids, aged 4, 6 and 8 and three quarters) had no idea of the hordes heading their way (to be fair, not even experienced event organisers would be expecting more than 12 people to attend–including the 11 members of the organising committee–so they could be forgiven for being completely oblivious to the 742,000 people who were busily rearranging their week to be there, and furiously tagging at least 77 friends each to join them).

Event day – Tuesday, 24 July, 2018.

The day had arrived. Sue reported to Hazel that there had been disappointingly few calls on the event hotline, and not to expect much of a turnout. Phil was worried that his faux pas with the advertising dollars may have scuttled plans for the event (and any chance of it becoming an annual event to become the next big drawcard for New Brighton, although sorting out a dead cow each year could have been troublesome for a bunch of vegans).

5pm. (30 minutes to go).

It was your average overcast day on the beach. A light easterly onshore had cleared the waves of any hardy surfers, and only a handful were fishing off the fishing wharf (which started life as a pier – little known fact!). The dead cow, mysteriously, had turned up right on time and was positioned perfectly for the vegan circle as the tide receded. Candles in hand and chants at the ready, there was a growing excitement among the 11 quietly gathering around non-breathing bovine.

5.15pm. (Other side of town).

Not being a common destination for most people, thousands were desperately hitting the facebook event page to ask for directions, and what bus to take, or even if buses went that far out of the city. There were at least 580 people at the bus exchange trying to board the same short bus, and the driver was at wit’s end, eventually calling in to dispatch to advise that one of the passengers had taken over driving duties and at least seven family groups were tied to the roof, desperate not to miss the opening ceremony of the dead-cow-vegan event.

With only five main roads into New Brighton, traffic was backed up all the way to Shirley, with some opting to park up on the berm (the fact ordinary citizens were breaking the law parking on berms willy nilly is just one more indication of the level of desperation going on here). Some had resorted to stand-up paddling across the estuary and entrepreneurial boaties were organising ferry rides from Lyttelton. Brighton or bust!

5.35pm. (Start of The Queue).

Hazel, the no-nonsense nanna, stood guard at the entrance to the event (marked by a single road cone – a lucky road cone I might add, with mass unemployment among cones, even an event of this minortude was a lucky break for the despised orange hats). The event was at maximum capacity (12) only five minutes in, and now Hazel had the formidable task of holding back the 741,999 other event hopefuls from breaking through the non-existent barrier.

Phil, at this point, was feeling somewhat redeemed that despite inadvertently spending the entire advertising budget on a hemp bag, the event was looking to have a bigger turnout than an IAG protest march.

6.01pm. (Closing ceremony).

After approximately 28 minutes of discussing the pros and cons of GMO soy milk and avoiding eye contact with the dead cow, the 12 attendees (11 committee members and one early-bird lucky member of the public) feel like it’s time to wrap things up. Sue gets the six box of sparklers she bought down at the bong store (which is well noted for it’s never-ending closing down sale) and suddenly realises that she’s made a mistake and bought mary jane incense sticks instead. Undeterred she makes a snap decision (much to the chagrin of the rest of the committee) to proceed with the closing ceremony anyway.

6.03pm. (Burning man).

Each of the 12 take a bunch of burning incense sticks and begin what can only be described as interpretive dance. While the event program hadn’t been thought out in great detail, it had been suggested they could dance around the beach pretending to be seagulls, as some sort of homage to the heap of Hereford they’d been staring at for the last 30 minutes. It would symbolise the cow’s journey from rotting carcass to a mangy scavenger of said carcasses. Breathtakingly poetic if you ask me.

6.12pm. (Crowd control).

As the dance wore on, the waiting crowd outside the cordon seemed to be completely unaware that it was all coming to a close. Desperate to get in and see whatever it was that everyone was so excited about, they mumbled about the poor organisation and lack of toilets, and that it was held in New Brighton, were nothing good happened, a suburb stuck in the past with bitterly cold winds and a whinging populous of self-entitled complainers.

Strangely enough, those closer to the dancing incense stick holders were actually starting to sing a slightly different tune, more bob marley than brownlee, and then left soon after to seek deep-fried goodness to satisfy a urgent new hunger.

Hazel was just about at breaking point, with many previously complicit queuers starting to vagrantly flout the entrance line and move into the event area without her direct say-so. Bedlam. No amount of shooing, shushing or threats with the whacking stick were doing any good, and she left soon after to find where her helpers had disappeared to.

Without Hazel’s formidable presence around, the ensuing disorderliness was nothing short of horrific. Nearly three quarters of a million overly keen event goers surged on to the beach. The movement was enough to trigger small movements in the tectonic plates and geonet fielded a lot of ‘strongly felt’ reports from locals. The sheer weight of the riotous crowd as they covered the beach and marched into the cramped event area caused a further drop in the land levels, rendering all of the costly flood plan reports from Tonkin & Taylor completely redundant.

With a lack of light, and no Hazel to guide them, the crowds were starting to panic. Parents ignored the warnings of their thoroughly-bored-by-now kids who just wanted to go home, and strove on determined to see as much of the event as possible, or what was left of it.

Social media influencers were already at it, racing to post first but without actual pictures of something were resorting to googling ‘dead cow selfies” and posting those instead. Or just posting a photo of the pier, because, like, who hasn’t done that before.

Old ladies rudely elbowed grown men below the belt just so they could get a better look (they still couldn’t see anything).

A few lucky ones struck gold, tripping over the now-moistening ex-mooer in the dark, getting the full event experience they’d traveled miles to be a part of it. Wiping the cow saliva from their eyes, they became targets, as jealous event-goers, still waiting at the entrance, unleashed their pent-up rage on these doey-eyed mosh pitters.

The police eventually turned up to break up the fights and convince some of the more delusional that there really wasn’t anything to see here and they should head home to sober up.

By 7.53pm most of the crowd had dispersed with most unsure of what they’d actually attended, and whether they should count it as a successful night out or not. They would have to work through the 89 photos they took to piece it all together and reassure themselves the week-long planning efforts were not in vain.

8.03pm. (Facebook flames).

Sue had just got home–a short walk down Marine Parade–and made the mistake of logging into facebook. It was honestly surprising her laptop didn’t literally melt through the floor with the weight of a 127,000 negative reviews.

She carefully picked through the comments, like a shiny-shoe salesman walking through a paddock, holding her breath, aghast at the audacity of what she was reading.

“I won’t be back. I didn’t even see the dead cow.”

“The fireworks were rubbish. Even the rubbish was rubbish.”

“I waited for seven hours, yeh ok I was at the wrong bus stop, but still, seven hours!”

“As a committed vegan I was horrified at the lack of food options.”

“I expected more from a dead cow.”

“No more Christchurch, I’ve had it with your hyped-up events, don’t try to suck me in with promises of family-friendly fun and dazzling displays of dead cows, it won’t work.” (yeh you know I’ll be back…)

“The beach was too sandy, and the sea air over-salted. You couldn’t even sort out the little stuff, gah!”

“I took three different buses only to find myself in Hornby. You should be ashamed of yourselves!”

“Last year’s dead cat event had a better feline to it.”

“I left on a high.”

“I couldn’t get in but I felt like it was a long way to come and see a dead cow, if that’s all it was. What was the event about anyway?”

“I’ve reported it to the SPCA, that poor cow must have be fresian lying there on the beach in the middle of winter.”

“You call yourselves vegans but when I finally got to the cow a good chuck of its rump was missing.”

8.07am. The next day. (Cow removal).

After a riotous night of eventing, it was time to start picking up the pieces, particularly the cow which was starting to stink things up and the CCC’s snap send solve was getting overloaded with unpleasantly graphic images of a decaying daisy. The CCC call centre dutifully logged it as a non-liquid spill and had Gerald from citycare take care of the disposal. Three minutes later the call centre has Gerald on the line saying he’s having trouble getting rid of it because all the bins are full, and the local iwi are now on the scene and need to follow protocol before getting rid of the cow.

See you next year everyone!

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Christchurch stampede to see dead cow
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