Ferg Mitchell (right and left) welcomes country music fans
to the 25th anniversary of the Merino Country Hoedown in
Omarama yesterday. Photo by David Bruce.
"Double trouble," someone muttered as Ferg Mitchell posed
with a life-sized portrait of himself outside the huge marquee
put up for the 25th anniversary country music hoedown, which
started in Omarama yesterday.
But the joking comment was a tribute to Mr Mitchell, who has
helped organise the event now known as the Merino Country
Hoedown for all of its 25 years.
It started at the Hakataramea Hotel in 1986, with about 50 to
60 - mainly friends and relatives - turning up, some in
campervans or caravans because accommodation was tight in the
small Waitaki River community.
It shifted for a couple of years to Otematata, outgrew the
venue, then was held for the first time in Omarama last year
at the Countrytime Hotel, with part of the hotel's grounds
and the neighbouring Omarama airfield used as a campervan
Tonight about 1000 people are expected to pack into a giant
marquee for the premier event, the Country Showcase.
About 200 caravans and campervans will be parked next to the
marquee, with fans coming from all around New Zealand.
Mr Mitchell said campervans started arriving on Wednesday -
by noon there were about 50, although officially the park did
not open until Thursday.
By mid-afternoon yesterday about 100 had arrived, with about
the same number expected late yesterday after people finished
work or early today.
Last night, the music started in earnest and today performers
will busk between 1pm and 6pm in the Omarama town centre,
turning it into a festival.
The Country Showcase starts at 7pm. Music starts again at
10am tomorrow and goes all day with a jam session at night.