Where: Masterton, North Island, New Zealand.
When: Annually, every March.
What Happens: Sheep shearing, wool.handling and pressing, wool arts & herding.
Remember to Bring: Warm woolly jumper.
You can’t really talk about New Zealand without mentioning sheep, and this festival is where all the sheep, and all those whose lives revolve around them, get together for a competition and a bit of a knees-up. For the rest of us, who may have less affection for these fluffy creatures, you can still enjoy this opportunity to join in a celebration of all things woolly, and watch the sheep get naked! In all seriousness, the New Zealanders take great pride in the traditions of sheep shearing and wool handling, and this festival reveres all those who dedicate their lives to these noble professions. In this competition speed and efficiency are of utmost importance – things can get quite heated, and winning is a real honour.
The festival is held in March every year, in Masterton, on the North Island. The tradition of the competition officially started in 1961, where the crowds were so large, that the local army were called in to help control them. Now the festival is a little more calm, and is regularly a four day competition, with entrants competing at a variety of levels of expertise in different events including: novice, junior, intermediate, senior and open shearing along with junior, senior and open wool handling events, and the pairs and singles wool pressing competitions. Up to one hundred and twenty competitors can be involved in one section of an event alone, needing up to 750 near identical sheep – the logistics of finding, moving around and housing this enormous number of animals can be surprisingly difficult, and can cause quite a headache for the organisers!
The winners of these annual competitions become popular heroes, and with the glory of winning come the dubious privileges of appearances on the news and in television commercials. Over the years prize money has increased as the festival has become more popular, and as a result, many competitors have taken up more professional attitudes, including rigorous training and fitness regimes, and making these events the focus of their year.
In addition to the sporting events, the festival also includes a rather more sedate Wearable Wool Arts Competition, where all creations are modelled. This section is a celebration of the wonderful variety of products that can be made from the vast quantities of fleece generated by the festival.
Official site of the Golden Shear International Society, with everything you could possibly want to know about the Festival.
Information regarding accommodation and activities in the local area.
City of Masterton
Site for local news and information including upcoming (and recently missed!) events.
By Guilia Vincenzi
image: c/o https://www.goldenshears.co.nz