Innovative Competition Launched
Needles poised. Ready. Go. 

The race was on in Middlemarch to buttons on a shirt and darn a hole in a sock (no dirty ones permitted). And they were just three of the tasks team members in an innovative country competition had to perform.

Eight teams from throughout the South Island took part in the 30-event competition.

Other events included dog trialing, an historical quiz to identify 20 articles and define their use, chaff cutting (pictured), ploughing with horses, dancing, ironing (using an iron from a coal range), plant identification, clay bird shooting, beard growing, chicken casserole, cooking on a coal range, horse shoeing, a talent contest, sheep milking and butter making. The fun-filled competition, organised to celebrate the region's 150th anniversary, proved so successful that organisers are now trying to find ways to transform it into a tourism venture.

"We think we can develop a theme around 150 years -- where people get a chance to take part in learning some of these skills," says Middlemarch 150th celebration organising committee spokesperson, Kate Wilson. Kate believes the idea could attract domestic and overseas tourists to workshops in the small Otago community.

Chaff cutting

Courtesy Otago Daily Times

The competition, run in February, pulled together the whole community, with various community groups running events.

"One of the high points was the craft display," says Kate. "We had a variety of local crafts on display. They were just fantastic. And this opened up some commercial opportunities for those involved.

"Various community members were roped in to judge events, with one woman in her late eighties judging the horse harnessing despite the pouring rain. "She really enjoyed it and told us she had a wonderful day."

A 92-year old local chaff-cutting expert was called in to judge that event.

"We just had amazing support from a huge range of people."

The competition is now going to be held every two years, with other communities getting the chance to host it every fourth year. Kurow has claimed the next one in the year 2000.

Kate says support from the Community Employment Group allowed the project to get off-the ground. CEG adviser Julie Pearse was also invaluable in helping to organise the project. "Without her encouragement it would have been easy to give up at times."

And while the community is still sparking from the event, the committee is keen to cash in on its success.

"This has given us a niche we think we can claim as our own. It's small beginnings. But we want to get onto this idea while we still have the impetus," says Kate.


Courtesy Otago Daily Times

The group now plans to look at ways it could bring people into the community to do workshops or take part in events in which they have a hands-on-chance to use the skills of yesteryear.

Article reproduced with the permission of Department of Labour's Community Employment Group