Mayoral crooner to make his Mark
Crooning to thousands of country music-lovers does not worry Carterton Mayor Ron Mark, even though his biggest "stage" before this weekend was Parliament.
The former NZ First MP has led the organisation of the inaugural Clareville Country Music Festival, on from today until Sunday at the Wairarapa A&P showgrounds north of Carterton.
As well as MC duties, he will don his cowboy boots to play a few tunes alongside big names such as Brendan Dugan, New Zealand's Got Talent finalist Cruize Karaitiana, Marian Burns and Australian-based couple Camille Te Nahu and Stuie French.
Mr Mark said a love of country music had always been with him, even as an MP: "Like when Michael Cullen was talking, I often thought of that song, Oh Lord it's hard to be humble."
With partner Chris Tracey, who is managing the event, Mr Mark will be out in his stetson and rhinestones trying to launch Clareville as the nation's answer to Australia's annual Tamworth country-music festival.
The event filled a gap in the region's calendar, he said, with the Wairarapa Country Music Club's annual awards event in recess since 2008. Ultimately, the goal was to capitalise on Clareville's rural culture and nearness to Wellington to create a new marquee event of the stature of Toast Martinborough and Wings Over Wairarapa.
"My vision is 25,000 people watching Dixie Chicks, Shania Twain and [young Wellington alt country band] John the Baptist."
Headline musician Brendan Dugan said Mr Mark's vision was realistic because festivals were part of country music culture, and fans returned to favourite events and performers.
"One thing about country-music fans is they're very loyal. I've got fans who have followed me since I won New Faces on TV in 1968. If they're still alive they still come to my shows - quite amazing really."
The Dominion Post