Thrills and spills as rodeo riders turn it on

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 11:31 11/02/2013
Southland Times photo
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ
Southland cowboy Wade Marshall shows his style while competing in the Open Saddle Bronc section of the Southland Rodeo.

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Many of the 3500 participants from the Surf to City event yesterday morning swapped shorts and running shoes for tight jeans and cowboy boots to spend the afternoon at the 56th annual Southland Rodeo.

Southland Rodeo Association president Luke Holmes said the Sandy Point rodeo grounds were at capacity through the afternoon, as the public came to see a thrill-packed show, backed by a soundtrack full of plenty of Bon Jovi, Kid Rock and Garth Brooks.

While the weather played a role in the good turnout - it was warm, but not too hot for participants, animals and onlookers - Mr Holmes said having the event on the back of the Surf to City meant Southlanders had plenty of options for entertainment and there were also a high number of competitors in the arena.

No serious injuries had been reported, besides the usual bumps and bruises, he said.

The Mataura Rodeo on Saturday had also been a success, with standout performances from Rex Turner and Johnson Davis, he said.

Davis scored 86 in the Open Bull Ride on Saturday.

No serious injuries were reported at the Mataura Rodeo, Mr Holmes said.

The Mataura Rodeo usually had to compete with Crank Up - which was held at the end of January - and having the weekend for the rodeo alone may have added to its strong crowd pull, he said.

One of the great parts of the rodeo circuit was seeing how it had become more of a family event. It was also encouraging to see top riders such as Anthony Perkins turn around and be "pick-ups" for the younger competitors, helping them on and off their mounts and giving them encouragement when they came off.

While there was plenty of talent in the ring yesterday, one stand-out performance from both Mataura and Invercargill came from rodeo regular "Festus" Richard Robinson.

Yesterday was his final rodeo of the season as a clown after doing the South Island circuit, he said.

After 20 years in the ring, it was a job that had never gotten old. He had started off as a bronc and bull rider as a child in Dunback, following in the footsteps of his father, siblings, cousins, uncles and his grandfather Jack Robinson - who established some of the first rodeos in the South Island.

While Mr Robinson joked he was "too slow" to be as successful as some of his family members, he had found as well as having nerves of steel, he loved being a joke star in front of crowds.

He had hopes his son, Jack, 6, and his daughter, Ashley, 7 - both of whom had played "wild animals in cages" or "delivered a bomb" in the arena - might continue the clowning tradition.

Most of the job consisted of basic bull fighting skills and crowd entertainment. The highlight yesterday was strutting around in a Borat-styled "mankini" which had won him a sponsorship with a women's lingerie line.

When asked if he adhered to a workout routine to stay fit enough to rescue fallen cowboys and strike a pose wearing next to nothing, Mr Robinson said there was a lot of hard work involved.

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"You have to eat a lot of pies to look like this," he said, after blowing a kiss to the camera.

- The Southland Times

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