Opotiki Rodeo Association
Originally the Opotiki Rodeo Association was formed by the then-new organisation of the Opotiki and District 10,000 Club. This Club held it’s first Rodeo in Opotiki in 1960, recording a profit of £8,111.03, even though, prior to that, steer riding had been a feature of local sports days around Opotiki for many years. The Opotiki Rodeo Association was taken over by a Sub-Committee of the Agricultural and Pastoral Association in 1963. There are not too many founding members left living in Opotiki today.
A feature of the first Rodeo was the Australian Champion Saddle Bronc Rider Allen Torrenbeck’s feature ride on “King of the Ring” owned by Sonny Kelly. The Pick-up Rider was Clive Jones from Gisborne, and others from Gisborne included a well-known character of the Brown body and neck scarf, Gordon Goodley.
The yards were typically the work of keen local farmers and others, made as I remember of silver wattle, bluegum and larch rails on nearly the present site. With the passage of time, the toll on the structure and the cost to rebuild saw the Club reluctantly go into recess on 12 March 1980 at the Annual General Meeting of the Agricultural and Pastoral Association and the team of local horses were sold.
In 1986, the Opotiki District Council’s PEP Co-ordinator talked with local farmers and others and put together a work scheme which gained the approval of the Council and received PEP funding. A hastily put together committee from the Eastern Bay of Plenty affiliated with the New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association and then gave the support of donated posts, wire and design time. Trees were felled, milled and the yards took shape under the guidance of Sonny Collier, with a keen gang of local unemployed.
Somewhat in debt, and with a lot of determination we held our first Rodeo (second era) on 27 December 1986 and came through with a credit bank balance. The foundations of Rodeo, which is still alive today, have been re-laid in the Bay of Plenty – Opotiki Rodeo Association (Inc) and subsequently we have held our Rodeo on the National Circuit each year in late December. The local committee is a great mixture of young and old though we have the unique situation of not having a competitive member of the New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association in our Club, but that is not for want of trying.
The benefits to our community are, Opotiki and the Bay of Plenty are now known New Zealand wide through the New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association Rodeo News, also through community and bay wide newspapers, radio and now TV coverage. Sponsors benefit by the influx of visitors and competitors to the area each year. We in turn could not manage without the generosity of our sponsors and the time and effort of our team of volunteers.
The Rodeo always attracts a large audience, after all Rodeo has it all…
It is a family sport, born out of our farming heritage, it is colourful and fun, it supplies the adrenalin rush and excitement. It has appeal to everyone. What kid (or grown up) has not at some time wanted to be a Cowboy or Cowgirl???