Rodeo deemed a success

Jackson Laurie, of New South Wales, displays his skill during the saddle bronc. Photo by Stephen...
Jackson Laurie, of New South Wales, displays his skill during the saddle bronc. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Jeans, chaps, checked shirts, cowboy hats and the aroma of mud set the scene in central Dunedin on Saturday evening during the 2012 International Rodeo at the Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Bucking bulls, country music and horse trickery attracted 7500 to the event, held for the first time south of Christchurch.

Despite problems with the sound system and wet soil, organisers said the rodeo was an overall success and they would consider bringing it back to Dunedin.

American rodeo announcer Kedo Olson welcomed people to the event by telling them they were making history.

"This has never been done in this type of venue," he said.

Patriotism was four-fold as flag-bearing competitors on horseback assembled in the arena according to their New Zealand, Australian, United States and Canadian nationalities.

Unified by their tasselled country costume and passion for rodeo, they stood as one before breaking away as individual contestants vying for titles and a share of the $22,000 purse.

Slideshow: International Rodeo

Clad in cowgirl boots and summer dresses despite the evening chill, Casey Kennett and Teisha Seymour sang the New Zealand national anthem, after which Australian country singer Adi Burgess belted out four tunes including Desperado by the Eagles.

Bareback, barrel race, steer wrestling, bull riding and saddle bronc events had the crowd cheering, while rodeo clown Allen "Big Al" Wilson provided light relief between rounds.

Stunt horse rider Sonia Duncan performed her tricks and from 10.30pm punters gathered on the stadium pitch for an after-party complete with a cowboy bar and live band.

Among those celebrating were newlyweds Vaughan and Debs Brooker who eloped from Ashburton and married at the Royal Albatross Colony at the tip of the Otago Peninsula hours before the rodeo began.

They had arena-side table service throughout the event, which doubled as their wedding reception, Mrs Brooker said.

New Zealand saddle bronc champion Ramoan Neho, of Northland, said the rodeo served as timely practice for riders heading into the summer competition circuit.

The 21-year-old had been in rodeo for five years and said it was a tough field competing against other top New Zealand riders as well as those from Australia, Canada and the United States.

Force Majeure Events International chief executive Darryl Tombleson had hoped to sell 15,000 tickets and pledged to buy Dunedin an emergency medical vehicle if that level of support was reached.

Mr Tombleson said selling 7500 tickets "wasn't too bad" and the event was profitable, but by how much he could not say.

It depended to an extent on how many attended the rodeo in Hamilton on Saturday, he said.

"In general it was fantastic, we are really happy with it. Working with livestock is unpredictable but everything went well and the riders were happy," he said.

Mr Tombleson said the stadium acoustics made sound control difficult but audience feedback was positive.

Although he was not able to buy Dunedin a medical vehicle, Mr Tombleson said he had given away more than $40,000 worth of rodeo tickets and supported other local charities.

Rodeo production manager Fred Doherty, of Outram, said the night went according to plan and offered audience members the best elements of traditional country rodeo while catering to a more corporate clientele.

"It was a whole night-out experience," he said.

His only disappointment was the wet, "gluggy" topsoil in the arena, which slowed riders and made it harder for bulls and horses to buck.

The topsoil came from a Burnside contractor and had been affected by recent rain, Mr Doherty said.

"That was out of our control."

He said no riders or animals were injured.

Event winners were Tom Willoughby, of Australia (bareback); Kate Fisher, of Fairlie (barrel race); John Davis, of Rerewhakaaitu (steer wrestling); Johnson Davis, of Rerewhakaaitu, and Jono Reed, of Culverden (bull ride); and Simon Roughan, of Central Otago (saddle bronc).

Dunedin police made two arrests for disorderly behaviour at the rodeo.

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