The South Hokianga settlement of Waimamaku has once again been transformed into a frontier town where cowboys stage main street shoot-outs and hapless travellers are held up at gunpoint.

The excitement was part of Saturday's Wild West Fest, an annual excuse to dress up (though some townsfolk insisted they weren't wearing anything out of the ordinary), compete in unusual competitions, celebrate the area's horse-riding skills, and raise money for good causes.

One of the most distinctive features of the festival, now in its 13th year, is that most of the action takes place on State Highway 12.

Campervans have to share the road with line dancers and traffic is regularly halted for gunfights and cheese-rolling races, a nod to Waimamaku's past as a cheese-making centre. Highway robbers stationed at each end of town stop traffic and extract donations from passing motorists.

Clip from the South Hokianga Riders' shootout during Waimamaku's Wild West Festival - here the bad guys try to kidnap the town's womenfolk from a dance.

As always the highlight was the shoot-out staged by the South Hokianga Riders. This year a band of villains gatecrashed a dance and tried to make off with the town's womenfolk.

Organiser Bruce Lomas said a huge volunteer effort went into the event, but it would definitely be back next year.

"A lot of people really enjoy themselves. That's what it's all about," he said.

The proceeds would go to health causes, including maintenance of the town's two defibrillators. Last year, $1000 was donated to Hokianga Health with half earmarked for the mental health unit at nearby Rawene Hospital.

Mr Lomas said the event was inspired by Hokitika's Wild Food Festival but gradually morphed into a cowboy-themed day, largely through the involvement of the South Hokianga Riders.

The Omapere Fire Brigade ran a firefighter combat challenge and offered fire engine rides with the proceeds going to Kaikohe colleagues taking part in this year's Sky Tower Challenge for the Leukaemia and Blood Cancer Foundation.

This year's champion cheese roller was UK visitor John Bellamy. In the keg-throwing competition, Waimamaku dairy farmer Andrew Hook was forced to relinquish the title he has won in 11 of the past 13 years when Whirinaki man Herb Leef bettered his distance in the final throw. The women's title went to Danielle Wikaira, also of Whirinaki.

The festival received an $1800 grant from the Kaikohe-Hokianga Community Board.