Mower fight 'best damn show for years'

Photo by Andrew Wallace
Photo by Andrew Wallace
Fisticuffs during a ride-on lawn mower race at the Lake Hayes A&P Show, near Queenstown, prompted showgoers to proclaim it the "best damn show" in years, a sponsor says.

A scrap erupted after Wanaka man Willy Boyd, manager of a mower and chainsaw shop, threw punches at Queenstown's Simon Hunt, a landscape contractor, who had shunted Mr Boyd's mower with his mower on Saturday.

Mr Boyd's boss and one of the show's sponsors, Queenstown Stihl shop owner Mark McLellan, said the crowd thought the scene was hilarious and totally planned.

"Ninety-nine percent (of the crowd) thought it was put on. It was quite good -- most of them couldn't stop laughing...

"It's amazing the number of people who have come up and said that's the best damn show they've seen for years," he told NZPA.

Mr McLellan said the fight had "livened up" the mower race and he predicted the gate sales for next year's show would increase considerably.

Most of the punches had made contact with the men's helmets and nobody was hurt, he said.

He was surprised the incident had attracted so much media attention.

"The whole thing is probably getting slightly out of hand... Hopefully it all blows over."

He supported Mr Boyd, whom he said was provoked, but did not condone his actions.

"He's a nice level-headed kid but he thought 'I'm going to get squashed here'."

He said Mr Boyd was worried his mower was going to tip over.

"Our rider just couldn't see any other option than to climb on board and suggest he stops."

Mr McLellan said he rushed on to the field to intervene as he was worried the situation could escalate.

"It's a fun event. Hopefully it continues and those sort of incidents don't occur again," he said.

Video footage of the fight was available on YouTube, he said.

Simon Hunt's father, Dave Hunt of Green Fingers Landscape Contracting, told NZPA the incident had been blown out of proportion.

"My son, Simon, while it was all in fun, this little shunt he gave the other guy was probably not the thing he should have done but it's a lawnmower race -- it's nothing very serious -- it's a fun thing."

Mr Boyd had "lost his cool" and lashed out with his fists at his son but the punches didn't connect.

"I have talked to his boss (Mr McLellan) and as far as we're concerned the thing has gone to bed."

He was bemused by all the media attention.

"The show has never had so much publicity, I'm told. Look, at the end of the day, what happened shouldn't have happened but it did and it's now been put to bed."

Dave Hunt also said the crowd wasn't aware it was a real fight: "Some of the crowd thought it was part of the act to start with."

Show president Mike Smith told NZPA neither competitor would be invited back next year.

"The society does not condone this sort of behaviour and the individuals concerned in the dispute will no longer be involved in the show."

Queenstown police said no complaints had been received about the incident.