‘Running of the Wools’ to evoke forgotten Queenstown

A spectacle not seen in Queenstown for decades will be staged again next February as more than 300 merino sheep run through the town centre to herald the start of the inaugural Hilux New Zealand Rural Games over the Waitangi holiday weekend.

The ‘Running of the Wools’ is planned as a dramatic celebration of the region’s farming heritage evoking memories of early settlers and highlighting the merino’s continued importance to New Zealand’s rural economy.

Running of the Wools

Horned merino rams will be swapping Bendigo Station for downtown Queenstown during the ‘Running of the Wools’ (image – Bendigo Station)

The free event takes place on Waitangi Day, Friday 6 February and is co-sponsored by the Otago Daily Times and clothing and gift retailer, Global Culture.

Beginning at midday, merinos will leave pens on Athol Street and run over the Ballarat Street bridge by the Village Green. They then turn right onto Camp Street before turning left into Beach Street and running all the way down to finish at Earnslaw Park.

Spectators will have plenty of opportunities along the barrier-lined route to witness a forgotten side of Queenstown’s history. From the early settler period, sheep were regularly transported from surrounding high country stations into Queenstown, including some by barge across Lake Wakatipu, before continuing to Dunedin for processing and export.

All stock for the Running of the Wools are being transported via road by Northern Southland Transport. They include around 300 dry stock – merino whethers and ewes – from Mt Nicholas Station on the south side of Lake Wakatipu and around 50 horned rams from Bendigo Station near Tarras. Bendigo was home to the globally famous merino ram ‘Shrek’ who grew the world’s heaviest fleece while evading muster for several years.

Hilux New Zealand Rural Games founder and trustee, Steve Hollander said it was going to be an amazing spectacle for locals and visitors alike.

“This will be a sight to behold! It’s easy to forget that sheep farming powered Queenstown’s economy long before it became one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations,” he said.

“The merino is a real symbol not only of that high country heritage but also of the huge contribution farming continues to make to our national economy. Just think of the global phenomenon of merino clothing that began right here in Otago and continues to grow.”

Mr Hollander said he hoped to make the Running of the Wools an annual event to tie in with the Games itself.

The Hilux New Zealand Rural Games feature several national championships for sports including speed shearing, sheep dog trials, speed fencing, gumboot throwing and coal shovelling as well as four Highland Games ‘heavy’ events and the Trans-Tasman ANZAXE Wood Chopping Championship.

Entertainment on both days is provided by the Topp Twins who also open a live concert on the Saturday evening headlined by local country pop sensation, Jody Direen.

Tickets for the two-day Games and concert are now sale via Ticket Direct.