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Stars and cars align for country festival

Wairarapa Country Music Festival headliners The Warratahs. Nick Theobold, left, Barry Saunders, Michael Knapp, and Nik Brown. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

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Dancing, dining and driving are treats in store for country music fans at Tauherenikau racecourse this weekend.

The Wairarapa Country Music festival opens on Friday, and the promise of fine weather, catchy tunes and a Cruise Martinborough crossover should set up plenty of entertainment at the track.

Kiwi rock luminaries The Warratahs headline, with prominent support from principal figures on the New Zealand country circuit, such as Ainslie Allen, Sue Dyson and Jackie Bristow.

Bevan Gardiner and James Day return after their 2019 appearance, this year playing more John Denver classics.

The weather promises to be warm, with temperatures pushing 30 degrees Celsius. The famous Tauherenikau microclimate should ensure great conditions.

Bookings and ticket sales were going well, the racecourse’s general manager Matthew Sherry said.

“We’ve got a record of pre-bookings for motorhomes. We’ve got 125, which is very high, and we’re very encouraged by that.”

Sherry said The Warratahs’ appearance and the introduction of some classic chrome in the form of Cruise Martinborough set up a “pretty special” Saturday.

“The weather forecast is superb, which means, with The Warratahs playing, there’s potentially a good walk-up crowd. When they played here four years ago, we had one of our better walk-up crowds.

Hundreds of classic cars from Cruise Martinborough will join the fun at the festival. PHOTO/FILE

“If you buy a Saturday ticket, it includes a high-class show, and 400 classic muscle cars from all around the country.

“It’s going to be a pretty special day, actually. Just to see the cars streaming in will be something to behold and the music in the background is going to be fantastic.”

Pitmaster Dale Keith of Rose and Smith will be turning the coals for a barbecue feast for party-goers.

Barry Saunders, The Warratahs singer-songwriter, said he was looking forward to playing at the course, just down the road from his Greytown home.

“It will be nice to play the songs in that beautiful setting down there. I’ve played there before, but I think it’s a bit of a step up this time, they’ve got new people involved and a great sound guy. It’ll be nice to do.”

Saunders said to expect some new songs alongside the band’s classic output.

Kiwi country music star Allen, a former resident of Carterton, said she was looking forward to playing on the same bill as Saunders’ band.

“I’ve never even been on the same bill as The Warratahs, so it’s so lovely I’ve got that opportunity at the Wairarapa Country Music Festival.”

Nelson duo Dust and Gold open the event on Friday afternoon, with Gardiner and Davy closing Friday night.

The cars from Cruise Martinborough spend Saturday afternoon at the festival, from 1.30pm.

The Warratahs’ headline set starts at around 8.30pm.

Sunday’s set includes Wayne R Heath, Dyson, and an all-star jam before the farewell finale at 2pm.

Wairarapa Country Music Festival, Tauherenikau racecourse, January 24, 25 and 26.

Tickets available at eventfinda.co.nz or at the gate.

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