By PHILIP CHANDLER
It’s time to saddle up.
After a 22-year absence, the Wakatipu Rodeo Club’s hoping to make a comeback.
Though still incorporated, the club went into recess in 1999, after its former arena, at Arrowtown’s Butel Park, was subdivided.
Now a group of locals wants to bring the controversial sport back.
Vanessa Sharp, whose daughter Zoe Johnston, 13, competed on the national circuit last summer, says the club’s secured a seven-hectare piece of flat land with a natural spectators’ amphitheatre, opposite Gibbston’s Kinross, owned by American Samuel Belk.
‘‘He just wants to see it happening,’’ says Sharp, who also had long-time New Zealand champion rodeo rider, Patrick McCarthy, check out the venue.
‘‘If we do it the way Samuel wants to do it, which is to make it profitable for people to come and compete, we’ll be part of a national circuit, and we’ll have North Islanders coming.’’
She got into the sport after her daughter pulled pin on the pony club in favour of barrel racing and roping.
‘‘It’s so much fun,’’ Zoe says.
Sharp’s hubby Carl Johnston adds: ‘‘It’s really family-oriented.
‘‘There’s other families like us getting involved so it seems be growing rather than declining.’’
Sharp concedes the sport’s contentious — while attracting thousands of spectators, the annual Wanaka Rodeo, for example, also draws animal rights protesters.
‘‘There’s always going to be an element of that, and it’s usually people who don’t really understand.
“We rely on the animals, the horses and the stock, so they are very well cared for, but the perception, I understand, is not always brilliant.’’
Anyone interested in attending a set-up meeting on August 1 can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org