A weekly round-up of news snippets, events and oddities from the Bay of Islands and around the Mid North

Cheese-rolling returns to South Hokianga

A festival featuring shotgun-toting cowboys, highwaymen holding up startled tourists and cheese-rolling challenges returns to the South Hokianga settlement of Waimamaku this Saturday.

The Wild West Fest started 17 years ago as a Far North version of Hokitika's Wildfoods Festival but has since then morphed into a cowboy-themed event.

Action is due to get under way around 10am and usually winds down around 2pm.

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Attractions will include market stalls, live music from the Urban Cowboys and the Hokianga Country Music Club, a jandal-throwing contest, and cheese-rolling races in which tyres painted yellow stand in for cheese wheels.

The highlight, a main street shoot-out between cowboys and bandits, will take place around 1pm.

One of the oddities of the festival is that much of the action takes place on State Highway 12, which means traffic has to give way occasionally to horses and wayward cheeses.

Money raised during the festival goes to health-related causes such as Hokianga Hospital and maintaining the town's defibrillators.

The lead-up to this year's festival was dogged by controversy over promotional photos posted to a Facebook page of people dressed up as native Americans.

That led to some vigorous debate and an online apology, but it also focused minds on the future of the event — including whether it should return to its origins as a wild west coast festival — and prompted a few more people to get involved instead of leaving it to the handful of volunteers who do most of the work each year.

In case you were wondering, the cheese-rolling race came about because Waimamaku used to be home a cheese factory, which is now a cafe.

Bark in the Park comes to Kawakawa

A new event in Kawakawa this Saturday aims to celebrate dogs of all shapes and sizes as well as raising money for Bay of Islands Animal Rescue.

Bark in the Park will run from 10am-3pm at the Kawakawa Rugby Club grounds (on SH11 at Taumarere, on the road to Paihia) and will feature dog agility and obedience demonstrations, dog grooming, dog adoption, a police dog demonstration, conservation dogs and a ''puparazzi'' photo competition.

Lulah appears less than enthusiastic about her unicorn costume for Saturday's dog fancy dress contest, part of the inaugural Bark in the Park in Kawakawa. Photo / Laura Jerome
Lulah appears less than enthusiastic about her unicorn costume for Saturday's dog fancy dress contest, part of the inaugural Bark in the Park in Kawakawa. Photo / Laura Jerome

Dogs will be able to compete in a novelty dog show with 16 categories such as best golden oldie, best rescue dog and waggiest tail, while a cool-off zone for dogs will offer paddling pools and dog ice-blocks.

More than 35 stallholders will take part, including dog groomers and vets offering microchipping, worming and general health advice. Poo fairies will patrol the grounds scooping up poo, while prize fairies will hand out spot prizes and Bark NZ will teach kids how to be safe around dogs.

For the humans there will be bouncy castles, kai and raffles.

Children under 13 must be accompanied by an adult; dogs must be vaccinated, on a lead and under control.

In the past two years Bay of Islands Animal Rescue has found homes for more than 70 dogs from the council pounds. In total the group has rescued about 260 dogs Northland-wide, desexed 192 dogs since January 2018 and spent $54,000 on vet bills in the same period.

Go to www.bayofislandsanimalrescue.org.nz for more information.
Concert at the Station

This year's Concert at the Station – one of the biggest fundraisers of the year for the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway – boasts a great line-up of Northland talent.

Bay of Islands College's kapa haka group will perform at this Sunday's Concert at the Station fundraiser in Kawakawa. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Bay of Islands College's kapa haka group will perform at this Sunday's Concert at the Station fundraiser in Kawakawa. Photo / Michael Cunningham

The show starts at 2.30pm on Sunday in the big green carriage shed at Kawakawa railway station, which means it won't be affected by the weather. Acts will include the Bay of Islands College cultural group, women's choir Bella a Capella, opera singer Daniel Morrison, Whangarei Youth Orchestra, Dianne Brown, Jack and the Boys, Cath Toomey, and Annette and Kim.

Cath Toomey of Kerikeri is also part of the line-up for Sunday's Concert at the Station. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Cath Toomey of Kerikeri is also part of the line-up for Sunday's Concert at the Station. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Gate sales only; tickets cost $10 for adults, $5 children and under-5s free. Family passes are available for $25. Don't forget to bring your own chair!

Burials, battles and a bishop

Heritage Northland is hosting a historic tour of Russell this Saturday focused on burials, battles and a bishop.

The tour will start at Christ Church parish hall, at 1 Church St, at 10am with a morning tea and a presentation on the unique features of the church cemetery.

The cemetery at Christ Church will be one of the stops on a historic tour of Russell this Saturday. Photo / Michael Cunningham
The cemetery at Christ Church will be one of the stops on a historic tour of Russell this Saturday. Photo / Michael Cunningham

That will be followed a guided tour of Pompallier Mission, Bishop Pompallier's historic printery, and lunch in the mission's French coffee house.

The last part of the tour, on foot or by car, will focus on the battles waged In Russell. The tour will be led by qualified guides and paced to suit any age or fitness.

The cost, including morning tea and lunch, is $25 or $15 for children. Bookings are essential. Contact Merle Newlove on (09) 439 7492 or m.r.newlove@xtra.co.nz for more information.

Bring out the Silva service

This Friday's Turner Centre Jazz Club features the jazz, Latin and old-school R&B sounds of Evan Silva.

Silva started singing soul and Motown music in nightclubs in the 1960s, and then went on to entertain the Vietnam War troops on R&R in Sydney in the early 1970s. In the 1990s he was nominated for gospel album of the year in the New Zealand Music Awards.

His band, Silva Service, is made up of top session musicians Ernest Semu on piano, Chris Nielson on sax, trumpet and percussion, Alex Griffith on bass, and Neil Williamson on drums.

The Theatre Bar will open at 5pm with live music from 6-9pm. Entry $10 at the door.

Feelers winners

We had heaps of entries in last week's giveaway to see Kiwi band The Feelers at Zane Grey's in Paihia on March 9, but there could only be one winner — and it was Andrea Brown of Paihia whose entry was drawn from the hat. Andrea lives in Paihia so it'll be just a short stroll to the gig for the dedicated Feelers fan.

Don't despair if you missed out. We'll do at least one more draw before the show.

SUP champs come to Waitangi

In a major scoop for Northland the 2019 New Zealand Stand-Up Paddleboard Race and Sprint Championships will be coming to the Bay of Islands on April 13-14, the first time the event has come north of Auckland.

The best stand-up paddlers in the South Pacific will converge on Waitangi to compete in 4km, 8km and 16km races on the Saturday, and 200m sprint races on the Sunday.

Paddleboarders pass Shippy's restaurant at Waitangi during a previous SUP competition in the Bay of Islands. Photo / supplied
Paddleboarders pass Shippy's restaurant at Waitangi during a previous SUP competition in the Bay of Islands. Photo / supplied

Chief organiser Bill Dawes said the first Northland Region Secondary Schools stand-up paddleboard championships would also be taking place on the Saturday, guaranteeing "an amazing weekend of stand-up paddling".

Dawes, who owns Northland Paddleboarding, said the event wasn't just for hotshots with flash gear.

"The event is for all levels of paddler, with separate divisions for each age group [from under-12 to 70+], and all types of boards including inflatables and recreational boards. If you can paddleboard for half an hour, you're good enough to enter."

There would be prizes for best fancy dress and lots of spot prizes.

"It's all about being out there on the water. Just like doing the half marathon — a few people are there to win it, but most are there for the fun. We'd love to see everyone who owns a paddleboard in Northland out there on the water, let's show those Aucklanders we really know how to party."

Go to www.supchamps.nz for more information or to register.
They want your blood

The New Zealand Blood Service will be collecting blood at the Turner Centre on Kerikeri's Cobham Rd on Monday, February 25, from 1-6pm, and again on Tuesday, February 26, from 9am-3pm.

See the website www.nzblood.co.nz/give-blood/donating/am-i-eligible to check whether you are eligible.
Sing with Bella a Capella

Women and girls of all ages who love to sing, and want to learn more about the arts of singing and performing, are invited to join Bay of Islands-based chorus Bella a Cappella.

The chorus meets every Thursday from 6.30-9pm at the Masonic Lodge in Kerikeri, which is on a service lane off Cobham Rd, opposite Warehouse Stationery. If you are keen to join you can just turn up on a Thursday or make contact via the group's website www.bellaacappellanz.com or their Facebook page, Bella a Cappella NZ.

Bay of Islands chorus Bella a Capella competing at last year's Sweet Adelines International in St Louis, USA. Photo / supplied
Bay of Islands chorus Bella a Capella competing at last year's Sweet Adelines International in St Louis, USA. Photo / supplied

The singers are still basking in their success at an invitation-only international singing contest, the Sweet Adelines International Harmony Classic, held in St Louis, USA, last October.

The group placed fifth in international medals out of about 500 choruses worldwide.

Director Patti Cooke was thrilled with their performance, especially as they were up against fierce competition.

"Most competitors in the Harmony Classic tend to be from large metropolitan areas, so just qualifying to compete was a huge achievement for us. Since the Harmony Classic began in 2000, only one other small chorus from New Zealand has qualified."

In particular the chorus received compliments for its 15-minute Māori and Northland-themed performance. The singers were grateful to have been granted permission by Sir Apirana Ngata's whānau to perform one of his waiata as an opening number, and to one of the chorus members and her whānau for teaching them the kapa haka moves.

"We were as authentic and proud as we could possibly be, and the audience loved it."

Cooke said the chorus thanked the many community groups, especially Focus Paihia, and individuals who helped them on their way with encouragement and fundraising events.

Youth theatre for Kawakawa, Kaikohe

Kaikohe actor Willi Henley, who runs a successful youth theatre group under the umbrella of the Kerikeri Theatre Company, is looking to start similar groups for kids aged 5-18 in Kaikohe, Kawakawa/Moerewa and Kaitaia to build youth confidence and talent.

Henley has been involved in performing arts since he ran away with the circus in 1989. He attended the New Zealand Drama School in 1995 and toured the country for three years with Te Rakau Theatre Company. More recently he has been helping stage shows at the Turner Centre such as Peter Pan, Oliver Twist and last year's Bugsy Malone.

If you'd like to get involved contact Henley on stellasdad@gmail.com or 027 974 9246.

Do you have news or an upcoming event you'd like to see in this column? Send it to us, including your full contact details, to baynews@northernadvocate.co.nz