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‘Sports that built the nation’ will be on show again as the third Hilux New Zealand Rural Games ventures to the North Island, hosted in Palmerston North the weekend before New Zealand Agri Investment week 2017.
The games celebrate pure heartland New Zealand over two days, featuring national and trans-Tasman championships for traditional sports including wood chopping, speed shearing and speed fencing alongside fun participation contests such as olive stone spitting, gumboot throwing and cowpat tossing. Free to enter, the event will take place in The Square, Palmerston North on the weekend of 11-12 March 2017, with the Running of the Wools kicking the weekend off in Feilding on Friday 10 March.
The spectacular ANZAXE Wood Chopping Championship on Saturday will once again feature top axemen from both sides of the Ditch competing in four separate disciplines as well as deciding the overall team trophy.
On Sunday, New Zealand's 10 best shearers will go head to head against the clock as Toyota Hilux presents the New Zealand Speed Shear Championships won last time by world champion Rowland Smith.
As well as offering spectators the opportunity to watch world-class athletes do their thing, the games are all about participation with a host of ‘have a go’ events. This is your chance to challenge your mates at speed hand milking, haystacking or egg throwing and catching. There are special events for under-12s in Kids ‘n Country as well as live entertainment and local food and drink.
Don’t miss the Running of the Wools the day before the Games – hundreds of sheep herding through town streets in conjunction with ‘Feilding on a Friday’ activities, which include the massive weekly saleyards livestock sales, and also the Feilding Farmers' Market held in Manchester Square.
Last year, the Games held in Queenstown attracted around 6,000 spectators, with an additional crowd of 8,000 packing into its CBD to watch the Running of the Wools. More than 200 competitors took part in 18 events over the two days.
Games founder and trustee Steve Hollander says he is confident that the new location will attract thousands more spectators thanks to growing awareness of the event nationally plus the support of local councils and tourism authorities.
“Manawatū is a heartland rural area with an enormous catchment throughout the North Island known as ‘the middle of the middle million’. The games will remain a free event and staging them right in the centre of Palmerston North provides a perfect platform for us to showcase traditional sports and get more locals and visitors along to have a go themselves,” he says.
“Queenstown was a stunning location but we want to keep growing the games and bring this essential part of our national character to a huge new audience. We’ve already received outstanding support from Palmerston North City Council, Manawatu District Council and the Central Economic Development Agency, so I couldn’t be more positive about the future of the event.”