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Y’all getting ready for country?

A month out from Wairarapa’s country festival, organisers are estimating the revellers to be in the thousands.

Wairarapa Music in the Country [formerly Wairarapa Country Music Festival] is expected to attract 5000 people to Tauherenikau Racecourse in January.

Racecourse general manager Matthew Sherry said the music lineup was the cream of the country crop.

“We’ve pulled some of New Zealand’s top artists. We have a wide range of different acts.”

Jackie Bristow will be playing with Barry Saunders from The Warratahs, and said Tauherenikau was a great place to perform.

“I played at the festival three years ago. It’s a nice festival, and pretty nice scenery, especially compared to Nashville.

“We’ll be performing a mix of songs from The Warratahs, and also my music from my albums ‘Shot of Gold’, ‘Freedom’, and ‘Outsider’.”

Born in Gore, Bristow has played country music since she was 11-years-old, and signed with an Australian record at 21.

She said growing up in a country-loving region gave her the platform to be part of the lifestyle and start making albums.

Now in her 40s, and a full-time country artist, she regularly travels between New Zealand and Nashville.

Despite living in the United States for many years, she still talked with a Southern R.

“I can’t shake the Kiwi accent, and people say I still roll my Rs. Maybe that’s the American accent kicking in as well.”

She said country music lovers were no longer an exclusive club.

“The general public are falling in love with country. It always had that small community, but now a lot of people are enjoying Dolly Parton, she’s all over TikTok.”

Dunedin-based country duo Melissa and the Dr will perform covers spanning the 1960s-2022, with an original or two thrown in.

‘The Dr’ Hyram Twang said their music was not just from one kind of channel.

“The music we play is for hurting, flirting, chatting and drinking.”

Melissa Partridge, the other half of the duo, was crowned the 2021 winner of the Gold Guitars – the premier New Zealand country awards.

She entered nine sections of the awards, was a finalist
in seven, and won five of them, as well as taking the top prize.

“I don’t think anyone has come away from the Gold Guitars as successful as she had,” Twang said.

They will be returning to Tauherenikau after playing in the 2020 festival.

“There’s a great atmosphere, Twang said. “It is hot, but the racecourse is a fantastic setting.

“The rest of the performers are great to hang out with. Backstage is where the best music happens.”

Sherry said the festival was expected to be an economic boon for the region.

“We have 120 motorhomes booked, with people coming from all over, from Northland to the deep south.

“When people travel down for the festival, they don’t just come for the music, they go all over. They visit Greytown and the wineries.

“The ticket sales have been higher than we’ve ever seen. We’re expecting 5000 people, which will be a great sized crowd.”

The festival has grown since the first one was held in 2014.

“It kicked off in Clareville with just a few hundred people. Now we’re having thousands of people standing in front of the stands dancing, having a great time. It’s bloody marvellous,” Sherry said.

Other performers include The Shenanigans, The Dolly Parton Experience, and James Ray.

Wairarapa Music in the Country runs January 6-8 at Tauherenikau Racecourse.

Helen Holt
Helen Holt
Helen Holt is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age and enjoys reporting on a variety of topics, regularly covering Wairarapa events, tourism, local businesses, and the occasional health story.

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