A whole new meaning for 'the main drag'

By Lindy Laird

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GIRL POWER: Wahine Fit and friends, from Kaitaia, showing how to pull a steam engine. PICTURES/LINDY LAIRD
GIRL POWER: Wahine Fit and friends, from Kaitaia, showing how to pull a steam engine. PICTURES/LINDY LAIRD

The term 'main drag' takes on a meaning of its own in Kawakawa once a year, as teams of adults, youths and children attempt to pull a 28-tonne steam engine through the town's main street in record time.

They were stoked that the sun shone on Sunday for the 2016 Puff & Pull Carnival, featuring the Bay of Island Vintage Railway Trust's engine Gabriel, the only working steam train engine of its kind in the world, but there was more to it than the tug-o-train contest. Johnson Park was the venue for a family fete and talent quest, making for a very full day's entertainment.

The train tuggers were the stars though, and once again the contestants were as chuffed as they were puffed when it was all over. A total of 11 teams entered the fray, trust member Anne Leitch saying given that Gabriel was now one of a kind, every record-breaking pull was a world record.

With several teams being the sole contenders in their categories, for most the event was more a challenge than a contest. Contestants ranged in age from a rumoured 84 years to five, the latter a member of the plucky Kawakawa Primary School team (2:02.65 minutes). A team of much bigger pupils from Bay of Islands College also impressed. With two fewer members than the 20 allowed they still got the 28-tonne beast over the line in 1:46.93.

Drumming up enough team members for the community category proved challenging in itself for compere and trust stalwart Frank Leadley.

"Come on," he urged. "Join in so you can tell your grandchildren you pulled a steam engine through Kawakawa, down a highway. Not many people in the world can say that."

It was about the same time that Mr Leadley mentioned the oldest puller he could see taking up the rope was 84, a jibe that prompted a few younger folk rush forward.

In the community contest, the Far North beat the Mid North. Wahine Fit, from Kaitaia, already the Far North's tractor-pull champions, took out the women's section (2:17.36), while, more demonstrating their might than competing, Motatau Marae, a team made up from the Motatau community's sports teams and kapa haka group, got the engine chugging across the line in 1:30.58.

- Northland Age

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