Dust off your flying machine

By Peter de Graaf

Northland's nuttiest winter festival is almost upon us.

Russell's 2012 Birdman Festival is due to take flight on the weekend of July 6-8, and this year the stakes for would-be birdmen and birdwomen have been upped by $1000.

While a prize has always been offered for the flying machine that achieves the greatest distance from the end of Russell wharf, this is the first time the distance will be strictly measured and the winner rewarded with cash.

Founded six years ago in a bid to inject some life into the quiet winter months, the festival's main event is the Birdman jump in which competitors construct bizarre flying machines or costumes and launch themselves from the end of Russell wharf.

Most years the Birdmen lavish more attention on their outfits and pre-jump entertainment than the jump itself, but that could change this year thanks to the $1000 Ultimate Flying Challenge.

Another highlight of the festival is the drag race, which sees men and women dressed as the opposite sex (heels and handbags compulsory for men) sprint around a course of obstacles and challenges such as downing an ice-cold cocktail.

Most of the weekend's 11 events are free and include a children's beach dig, barbecue cook-off, spaghetti-eating contest and wonky bicycle challenge. Last year's Supreme Birdman was local handyman Jason Bye known as Caveman. Mr Bye also took out the top prize in 2010 as Flash.

Entering a team or individual in the Birdman jump costs $30 (includes a T-shirt); go to www.russellbirdman.co.nz to download an entry form or a full programme; email info@russellbirdman.co.nz. Entries close June 30. The prize for the greatest distance is $1000; the Supreme Birdman wins $500 with other prizes for best individual, best team and crowd favourite. Festival-goers can buy a 3-day ticket on the Paihia-Russell passenger ferry for $15.

- Northern Advocate

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