8 Feb 2019

Aria Sports Day: a time-honoured community event in the King Country

From Country Life, 9:40 pm on 8 February 2019

On Waitangi Day, hundreds of people gathered in the tiny town of Aria for its 115th annual sports day.

Some came to compete in shearing, tennis, dog trials, motocross and egg & spoon races. Some just sat under the trees watching.

Heading dog Su was one of about 40 dogs taking part in dog trials.

She can happily spend all day watching the other dogs in action, according to her owner Graeme Brier.

Su may be sitting at his feet, but her eyes never leave her rivals as they slowly but carefully bring three sheep down the hill, around some hurdles and then into a pen.

It seems Su would like give the other dogs some advice, Graeme says.

"She loves this game ... Never tires of it.  Probably figures she'd make a pretty good judge herself."

The Aria sports day has been a feature on the King Country community calendar for generations.

When 83-year-old Audrey was a teenager, she used to ride more than an hour to the Aria sports day, crisscrossing neighbours' farms.

Back then, Audrey competed in events on horseback then would leap off her horse to join in the running races.

She comes back to the sports day year after year.

"To me, it's very important. It's part of our country life."