10 Mar 2017

Rural Games kick off with the 'running of the wools'

8:03 pm on 10 March 2017

The Hilux Rural Games have descended on Manawatu for the first time in the event's history, kicking off with 1000 sheep making a 500m dash down Feilding's main street.

The games were founded in 2015 by Steve Hollander and have taken place in Queenstown for the past two years.

This year the action moved to Feilding and Palmerston North, and started today with the 'running of the wools' down the Manchester Street in Feilding.

About 1000 cross-bred sheep made the 500m dash down the road from the iconic Feilding sale yards, around the clocktower and back.

NZ Rural Games Trust chair Margaret Kouvelis - the former mayor of Manawatu - pushed for the event to be moved from Queenstown to Palmerston North.

"Whether you live in the city or you live in the country, we need to celebrate our agribusiness and particularly I think this epitomises the wonderful games that built the nation."

Organisers are expecting more than 20,000 people to flock to Palmerston North's square this weekend for the Rural Games, and it was not just about entertainment, said Ms Kouvelis.

"The aim of the rural games is to give back something of our legacy to the next generation. I really think that we are unique as New Zealanders and people often say what is it that makes us kiwi. I think a lot of it comes from rural values - that modesty that sits under our great athletes, that's all part of the modesty that I have experienced for years around rural New Zealand."

NZ Rural Games Trust chair Margaret Kouvelis.

NZ Rural Games Trust chair Margaret Kouvelis. Photo: RNZ / Alexa Cook

"These games represent more than just games - they represent a rural way of life and they represent values."

This morning saw a wool fadge relay race between the police, the Fire Service, the Air Force, the Army, the Turbo rugby team and high school students.

The Turbo Rugby Team stuffing their wool fadge.

The Turbo Rugby Team stuffing their wool fadge. Photo: RNZ / Alexa Cook

Alan Lynch, the captain of the police team, was pretty stoked to win and said the police could now claim the bragging rights against the Fire Service.

"It was good to beat the fire guys, we'll be seeing them in a lot of jobs so we'll definitely be holding it against them."

This was followed by a 'man and mutt race', where 22 of the region's fastest Young Farmers belted up and down Manchester Street in gumboots with their dogs.

Tom Nicholl from Hunterville and his dog Beau easily beat the rest of the field, with no training required.

"Just running around the hills in Hunterville, you keep pretty busy running around all those hills."

Man and Mutt race winner Tom Nichol and his dog Beau.

Man and Mutt race winner Tom Nichol and his dog Beau. Photo: RNZ / Alexa Cook

The next two days of the games will be in Palmerston North's square and include some serious events - such as a national and trans-tasman championship for speed shearing and fencing, wood chopping, gumboot throwing and wine barrel racing.

However, for spectators with or without any skill, they can try their hand at anything from egg throwing to tree climbing and coal shovelling to olive stone spitting.

Palmerston North will host the games again next year before they return to the South Island for two years.