More than 600 cavalcaders and their horses are resting their legs this week after traversing the Otago countryside during the 27th Goldfields Cavalcade. The various teams kept the 1860s gold rush spirit alive by travelling on heritage trails for nearly a week before making their way to Hawea, this year’s host town, during one of the country’s biggest Cavalcade events.
“It was another fantastic Cavalcade,” said Otago Goldfields Heritage Trustee and event organiser Terry Davis. “One of our cooler ones with the southerly on the Sunday, a good rain Wednesday and a few frosts in between. However, it finished on a massive high with the best weather to coincide with the best views as they came closer to Hawea. The cooler weather for most of the week was perfect conditions for the horses and also reduced some stress for the land owners around fire risk.”
Cavalcade to Hawea committee chairman Warren Hewson said, “As a long term local, I was always confident that Hawea would be a popular cavalcade destination and [I] have to admit the weather helped make the day memorable.”
The trail groups, with participant ages ranging from 18 to 89 years old, retraced pioneer footsteps on Otago’s gold rush landscapes on walking, running, horseback riding, wagon and bike trails.
Jonathan Moulds who took to the running trails said, "This event is second to none. It is without doubt the best event I've ever done.”
The participants’ hard work and efforts were met with some rewards and fun along the way.
“Mr Whippy [soft serve ice cream] made some surprise visits to a couple of trails, especially for Sandra Cains trail where she was on her 25th Cavalcade,” said Davis.
All trails convened in Hawea last Saturday for the Cavalcade daytime event, which included a breakfast provided by Wanaka & District Lions Club, a parade and markets with nearly 4000 people in attendance.
“The market day was a huge success; one Cavalcade veteran of the past six market days said, ‘it was the best day at a Cavalcade market I have ever had,’” said Cavalcade to Hawea market coordinator Lorne Knight.
The event culminated Saturday evening at the Hoedown Marquee with many of the trail teams and local community members kicking up their heels with a dinner provided by Aspiring Rotary, cold drinks and live music at Hawea Domain. The Hoedown event was nearly a sell out with just under 800 guests.
“We chose Craig Adams to be our headline act because he has performed at previous cavalcades and the cavalcaders and the locals alike appreciate his music,” said Hewson. “Also, really rate the Little Green Men playing the early slot as they are a very popular band too and warmed up the crowd.”
The entire event was run by the work of 20 Cavalcade to Hawea committee members and nearly 200 event volunteers. “[A] special thanks to all the landowners who allowed the Cavalcades to cross their property,” said Davis. “And [to] all the volunteers who make the beast manageable!”
Hewson pointed out the great efforts from his team. “They [committee] put a huge amount of time and energy in to Saturday’s result. Some of us have been working up to two years and it was very satisfying to see everything come together so well,” he said.
The first cavalcade started in 1991 with 250 horse riders and wagons attempting to recreate the gold rush for riches in 1862 as "a way to inject needed funding into the depressed rural communities of Central Otago (pre-Rail Trail Success)," said Davis.