Vote-rigging part of the fun of Republic Day

LAIRD HARPER
Last updated 05:00 24/01/2011
Murt Kennard
JONATHAN CAMERON/Taranaki Daily News

PRESIDENTIAL POSERS: President Murt Kennard, right, is elected ahead of Mike Self at the Whangamomona Republic Day celebrations on Saturday.

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Possum-skinning, whip-cracking, sheep-racing and a healthy dose of presidential race-fixing were all part of the entertainment for townies and country folk who ventured to Whangamomona on Saturday for Republic Day.

Although the target of 5000 wasn't reached due to a shortage of trains, those who braved the stomach-churning bends of the Forgotten World Highway 43 were rewarded for their efforts.

Endless action and no sign of the sweltering heat that turned the tar road into a jandal-trapping goo two years ago ensured the biennial event went off without a hitch.

The lack of steam-powered transport did nothing to stop Goy and Alison Yelavich from making the long journey from Auckland.

"I have wanted to do this for 100 years, so I was always going to come down here," Mr Yelavich said.

He was sick of hearing the wild and woolly tales from friends so jumped on board with a tour group and set off for the pioneer town.

"We didn't really know what to expect, only that it was going to be a great time."

Self-proclaimed wizard Mike Self couldn't dethrone the king of Whanga as Murt Kennard won again by a landslide.

"Wizards come and go," said Mr Kennard.

After thanking everyone he could think of, his first job as the top man was to knight master of ceremonies Mark Coplestone for his non-stop speaking and tireless effort.

"I couldn't do what he does. But what few people know is that for the next two years he won't say a word. He saves it all up for Republic Day."

A defeated Mr Self returned to the warm embrace of his supporters.

"Im gutted and relieved. The vote was rigged and I'll be back next time with an even dirtier campaign."

Organising committee chairwoman Vanessa Kennedy said Republic Day was about bringing people together for fun and a few trips down memory lane.

In what Joanne Barkla and Shiree McLeod called a fitting tribute to their grandmother, Nita Anderson died as Whangamomona celebrated its independence.

Mrs Barkla said her granny loved the town and its people.

"She had been very sick for a while and we hoped she would die today. It's quite special."

Mrs Anderson, with her late husband Joe, ran the town's bakery for years, even after it burnt to the ground and took half the town with it.

Mrs McLeod said it was a bittersweet moment for them, but she knew their grandmother was looking down on them and smiling.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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