Cheese rolling to the taste of hundreds

Hundreds came, some rolled, others raced but everyone seemed to have a great time at yesterday's third annual Whitestone Cheese Rolling New Zealand event held in the hills of Wendon Valley, in Southland.

An estimated 1000 people turned out for the only event of its kind in New Zealand.

Celebrities, including prominent businessman Michael Hill and Shrek the sheep took part in a gathering fast stamping itself as a must on the southern summer social scene.

Organisers were thrilled with the warm summer weather. Sunscreen and shelter were popular choices during the afternoon but everyone made sure they had a prime view of the 12 individual cheese rolling races during the afternoon.

Mr Hill said the event was very special and he was thrilled to make it after being unable to over the past two years. The views alone made it a spectacular gathering, he said.

As guest rollers flung the 4kg wheels of Whitestone Windsor blue down the steep hill, dozens of competitors hurled themselves down in hot pursuit.

Mostly, the wheel ran more than 400m straight down before the first person managed to snare it. The first three placegetters in each race went through to the grand final while the winners got to keep the cheese and received a free helicopter ride over the event.

Co-organiser Virginia Henderson, whose family hosts the event, said it seemed to be getting better every year. More people were realising how novel and how much fun the gathering was.

This year's event again featured live music, food stalls, a licensed booth and a foot massage service. The first two events raised about $10,000 each to go towards autism projects in Otago and Southland and Ms Henderson hoped the 2008 event would raise a similar amount.

Proceeds from the event will go towards buying a car for the region's autism assessors to travel to families with autistic children, saving families time and money.

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