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Horses, clowns and heavy machinery were let loose as Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin was transformed into an indoor rodeo arena for the first time yesterday.
The feat was accomplished in a frenetic few hours, as trucks rolled in from 6am to deliver hundreds of tonnes of wooden flooring, plastic and soil for tonight's 2012 International Rodeo.
The materials were for a 50m by 30m rodeo arena at the venue's western end, as well as chutes, stocks and even a cowboy bar - all on the stadium's pristine surface.
The Otago Daily Times found preparations well under way by mid-afternoon, as trick and stunt rider Sonia Duncan, of Christchurch, and Australian rodeo clown Allen "Big Al" Wilson tested out the surface.
Force Majeure Events International production manager Fred Doherty, of Outram, said it was a relief to see the rodeo's arena taking shape after a hectic two weeks arranging every aspect of the operation's logistics - from cowboys' flights, to deliveries of dirt.
"I have set this thing up in my head about 10,000 times. This is just a nice wee lull before it all happens [tonight]," he said.
Dunedin Venues Management Ltd chief executive Darren Burden was also pleased to welcome the event to the stadium, and confident the turf would quickly bounce back.
Steps to protect the playing surface were the same as those used when Carisbrook hosted a round of the Australasian supercross championships in 2010, he said.
The new stadium's turf was also scheduled to have a month-long period of rehabilitation after the rodeo, which made the event's timing "perfect", he said.
"The reality is we need these sorts of things to happen. This just goes to show the flexibility of the stadium - it's something different.
"It isn't all about rugby," he said.
Force Majeure chief executive Darryl Tombleson had hoped for a crowd of 10,000 and pledged to buy a first response medical emergency vehicle for the city if ticket sales topped 15,000.
Yesterday, he said about 6000 tickets had been either sold or, in a few cases, given away - including 500 free tickets to pupils at Carisbrook School yesterday - but he was hoping of a big walk-up crowd.
Mr Doherty said the rodeo had been running in Christchurch and Hamilton since 2007, but tonight's boasted "probably the best field we have assembled" from New Zealand, Australia and North America.
That included New Zealand and Australian champions, a past champion from Canada, and American rodeo celebrity Kedo Olson, who would be the event's announcer.
The on-field cowboy bar would be open before the big show itself, which would begin at 7pm and run until 10.30pm, he said.
Live music and other entertainment would also feature, and an afterparty at the cowboy bar would wind up at 1am.