It was a memorial service for the tragic passing of Northland businessman Michael Springford, but it didn't prevent laughter and smiles from coming to the occasion.
About 1000 people gathered at the Ruakaka racecourse on Saturday for Mr Springford's memorial service, after he was laid to rest at Maunu Cemetery on Friday, following a private service at his Whangarei home.
As those who had come to pay tribute to the Whangarei LJ Hooker owner drove into the Ruakaka course, they were greeted by realty signs featuring Mr Springford, and several of his favourite sayings. Mr Springford was also a keen racing fan, and guests were presented with the memorial service's programme in the form of a racing guide.
Racing identity Donna Logan was one of several speakers, and introduced a pre-recorded race commentary prepared for the service, which featured a fictitious race involving horses owned by Mr Springford. The proceedings also featured an exhibition gallop by Stab In The Dark, one of Mr Springford's most successful horses.
All speakers at the memorial had a consistent message: Northland has lost a hard-working, successful businessman who also generously gave much to the community.
His family paid tribute to him in many ways, including a heartfelt original song from his son Manuel, an accomplished musician. Manuel also joined Mr Springford's son-in-law Aaron Gascoigne, who was with Mr Springford when he passed away last Sunday, to sing Brown Eyed Girl, a favourite song of Mr Springford's.
The memorial concluded with "Mick's Last Shout" which was optimistically estimated to finish at 5.30pm. However, tributes continued long into the night.