Wairarapa's own "hoedown" is attracting greater numbers of crooners, yodellers, line dancers, and wannabe Willie Nelsons and Dolly Partons, says its organiser.

The third annual Clareville Country Music Festival kicks off Friday afternoon at Clareville Showgrounds, with organiser Ray Beale expecting "a few thousand" country fans - and a couple of hundred caravans.

Mr Beale, Wairarapa A&P Society complex manager, said numbers of festival goers had jumped significantly since its debut in 2013, jumping from about "1500 to 2000" to near 4000 at last year's event.

Ticket pre-sales for the 2015 festival compared with this time last year had also increased.


"We've been building the festival every year," said Mr Beale.

"The first festival was a learning curve, as we didn't quite get the numbers we expected. But, people are out there talking about it and spreading the word."

Mr Beale said the crowds are mostly made up of the "caravan crew" - people who do "circuits" of country music festivals around the North Island, travelling in campervans.

The first festival attracted 96 caravan loads, increasing to 160 the following year.

"This year, we've budgeted for 200."

Mr Beale said he came up with the idea for the festival five years ago, after walking into Clareville Showgrounds' stadium and thinking it would be "great for a hoedown".

"It's something a bit different to attract people over the hill - another feather in the hat for Wairarapa."

Since then, the three-day festival features a "variety" of New Zealand country artists, this year's line up including crooner and platinum recording artist Dennis Marsh, Nelson-based all-female Johnny Cash covers band The Johnnys, Wellington Celtic rockers Shenanigans and Waikanae folk/rock duo Legal Tender.


Wairarapa musos making an appearance are Featherston's Rimutaka Trial Band, Masterton Country Corral alumna Sue Dyson, and Carterton-based line dancing troupe the Buckhorn Bootscooters.

Festival goers also have the chance to display their own country pipes with the "walk-up" sessions - where "anyone who feels they can sing country" is invited to entertain the crowd.

"Lots of people participate and show off their wares," said Mr Beale.

"We get a lot of really talented kids in particular."

In addition, the event will be emceed by hypnotist and comedian Guy Cater, and opened by new Carterton Mayor John Booth - who has some big boots to fill, following former mayor Ron Mark's performance of Good Hearted Woman, with cowboy boots and Stetson hat.