Lawrence is gearing up for one of its biggest weekends of the year, as its annual rodeo returns to town on Saturday.

Lawrence Rodeo Club president Murray Hellewell said entries were tracking well for the day-long rural carnival, and club members and volunteers had been busy putting the finishing touches to grounds, and bringing stock into prime condition.

''Starting 9am with the slack, we'll be putting on a top notch family show once again this year, with more than 250 competitors visiting, including several of the leading cowboys and cowgirls this season. We're looking forward to it.''

Among those hoping for a good ride this weekend is Waipori farm manager Sam Leslie.


Leslie (28) may have come to country life later than some, but has thrown himself into its traditions neck-deep.

''I'm originally a builder from Christchurch. But after coming down this way a few times hunting with mates, I decided farming looked like fun. I thought I'd give it a go, moved down in 2015 and never looked back.''

The former city-dweller's introduction to rodeo was similarly breakneck.

''There's not a lot of horses in Christchurch, so I'd never actually ridden before coming down. But after picking that up I gave rodeo a crack last year at a buck-out [trial] day. That didn't go so well, but you've just got to get back in the saddle.''

After competing in two second division saddle bronc sections last year, Leslie was going all-out this season.

''I'm definitely enjoying it more and more, but still working towards my first placings, and hopefully a bit of prize money. Each event you learn a bit more. Staying on top is just a bonus.''

Despite his urban origins, Leslie said he had been welcomed into the Lawrence club ''like family''.

''Rodeo's a family sport and the club works hard to make it something everyone can enjoy, from youngsters up. We want to make it a good ride for everyone out there.''


Club president Hellewell agreed, and said recent protests by animal rights activists at other rodeos continued to ''miss the point''.

''This is the rural community at its best, celebrating together. It's what heartland New Zealand is all about.''

He did not anticipate any similar disturbances at the Lawrence event.

''I'd be surprised if any protesters turned up. But if they do they're welcome to buy a ticket, respect the rules and come on in. Everyone's entitled to their opinion.''