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Thousands toast fine wine and good friends

Jess Gooding, left, enjoys a front row seat to the Warratahs with her mum, Rachael Gooding, of Featherston, and Liam Burgess, who is originally from Wairarapa but now lives in Texas with his wife, Tabitha, right. PHOTOS/ HAYLEY GASTMEIER

Another day to remember

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Whether it was their first visit or 25th, the crowds at Toast Martinborough on Sunday were having a blast.

Thousands flocked to Wairarapa’s wine village to celebrate what the town does best, for the 27th annual Toast event.

Cloud cover was welcome as festival goers made their way between the nine sites featuring 10 wineries, refilling their glasses and tasting food that complemented the vino, with menus crafted by some big names in the foodie world.

Masterton’s Paige Drummond, left, with first-time Toast-goer Rachel Pope, Greytown’s Lynley Drummond, whose been to at least 25 Toast events, and Sam McQuade, of Masterton.

Nothing was going to stop Greytown hairdresser Lynley Drummond from turning up to Toast.

“I’ve been to at least 25 – I think I’ve missed one.

“I just keep coming back because it’s just a great day out with friends.”

With Drummond at Palliser Estate was Rachel Pope, who was a first-timer to the event, Pope said she was impressed by how well organised the festival was and noted how paying for items via the pre-loaded wrist bands made things easy on the day.

Nicole Farrier had travelled from Palmerston North with 22 girlfriends for her bachelorette party.

Farrier said Toast came around at the perfect time to celebrate her forthcoming wedding in February.

Greg and Andrea Heise have been flying over from Sydney every year since 2001 to be at Toast.

“We fly in on Friday and fly out on Monday.”

Greg and Andrea Heise, of Sydney, left, with their Wellington pals John Gresslehner, birthday boy Neil McLean, his wife Judy, Carol and Nigel Miller, and Mellissa Gresslehner.

Greg Heise said the event was a great excuse to catch up with his Kiwi buddies, including Neil McLean, who was celebrating his 54th birthday.

Their friend from Wellington, Mellissa Gresslehner, said they always made a Wairarapa weekend around the event – going to Martinborough vineyards Tirohana Estate, for dinner on Friday, and Poppies, for lunch on Saturday.

Siblings and Martinborough locals Pip and Nathan Maynard were enjoying a day off from work.

Both work in hospitality and said it was great to be on the other side of the counter for once.

“It’s nice to let other people pour us a wine,” said Pip, a South Wairarapa District councillor who works at Poppies Martinborough.

She said Toast was about paying tribute to some of the vineyards responsible for putting the town on the map.

Fifteen musical acts took the stages at the various sites to entertain the 8000-strong crowd.

Toast general manager Anna Nielson said the All Blacks’ loss to Ireland meant “a few sad souls” turned out to the festival a little later than expected.

She said everything ran smoothly throughout the day and it was nice to see the sun shining in the afternoon.

Police Senior Sergeant Mike Sutton said festival-goers were overall well behaved and by late afternoon and there had been “no drama”.

“We took one person into custody and released them on a warning for fighting but other than that, considering the number of people here, it’s all going really well.”

The day looked as if it had gone without a hitch, until the Life Flight Westpac rescue helicopter was called to a patient seemingly in a bad way just before 5pm.

After some medical assistance, the patient was transported to Wairarapa Hospital by Wellington Free Ambulance.

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