Easter visitors spoilt for choice

This Freightliner truck, driven by Inky Tulloch, has been 'brought out of retirement' to take part in the Highlands Fling this weekend. Photo supplied.
This Freightliner truck, driven by Inky Tulloch, has been 'brought out of retirement' to take part in the Highlands Fling this weekend. Photo supplied.
Rabbits, racing and riesling will be the focus for thousands of visitors to Central Otago at Easter.

The Alexandra Lions Great Easter Bunny Hunt, the Highlands Festival of Speed and the Clyde Wine and Food Harvest Festival are among the attractions for visitors and locals alike.

The bunny hunt is in its 22nd year and convener Dave Ramsay said 15 teams had to be turned away this year because of a shortage of properties.

''There's a lot of disappointed people - about 180 hunters- but we usually strike this in the [Warbirds over Wanaka] airshow year.

Several of the blocks we usually use are around the [Wanaka] airport, so they're ruled out for safety reasons, and another of our blocks has the [national championship] jet sprints going through it, so that's another one out.''

A total of 26 properties throughout the Central Otago and upper Clutha district will host teams of hunters, who begin their task tomorrow and tally up the following day, laying their haul in Pioneer Park to be counted by noon on Saturday.

Hunting teams are from all over the country and conditions might favour the rabbits this year, Mr Ramsay said.

Rain is forecast and wet weather would keep rabbits ''indoors'' in their burrows, so tallies could be down.

Funds raised from the event will be donated to the Otago University stem cell research on type 1 diabetes.

Motorsport enthusiasts will be heading to Cromwell, where the Central Speedway and the Highlands Motorsport Park have racing organised from Friday to Sunday at adjacent venues on the outskirts of the town.

The Highlands Fling, being contested at Highlands, could become the signature event in an Easter motorsport calendar, the organisers hope.

''If you've got a classic $200,000-plus car for example, you're probably reluctant to race it and risk door handle-to-door handle contact or wheel-to-wheel,'' Highlands general manager Mike Sentch said.

''This event is a no-contact event, a single car sprint, a timed race around a circuit that's about 1250m long, and we expect it become an iconic event.''

The sprint will be one of the highlights in the two-day Festival of Speed being staged at Highlands on Saturday and Sunday.

About 50 vehicles have been entered in the fling, including a Freightliner truck raced by former Mataura mayor ''Inky'' (Ian) Tulloch.

Each day's festival programme is identical and ''it's as much about what's off the track as what's on the track'', Mr Sentch said.

A wide range of vehicles will feature in the Classic Road and Racing Car Show, which will be set up on the car park area in front of the museum.

The display includes Porsches, Jaguars. Pontiacs and ''some immaculate Minis'' along with several vintage wooden jetboats and old caravans.

A fashion show and a ''best-dressed'' contest will add a new element to the festival. Patrons are encouraged to dress in period clothing.