Big event . . . The Oamaru Racecourse has been converted into a motorhome city, for the 64th New Zealand Motor Caravan Association National Rally. PHOTO: CORBAN BLAMPIED

The Oamaru Racecourse has been converted into a motorhome city.

As the site of the 64th New Zealand Motor Caravan Association National Rally, it is the temporary parking place for some 650 vans from all around New Zealand.

Convener Bill Paton, of Oamaru, said it took the committee of 10 two years to organise the event. This week’s tasks included marking out sites for each van, pitching a giant marquee in which to stage three nights of live entertainment, and setting up smaller tents for trade displays relating to motorhomes.

Looks the part . . . Wearing his Oamaru Victorian-themed top hat, rally convener Bill Paton takes the wheel of the Britten motorhome. PHOTO: SALLY BROOKER

The rally dates back to 1958, when the inaugural gathering of just six vans was held at Clifton, Hawkes Bay.

By 1971, Hampden hosted 23 vehicles, then the 21st rally was scaled up at the Trentham Memorial Park Showgrounds and the format was established.

Most attendees were arriving yesterday in time for a happy hour and meet and greet session in the marquee.

Today’s programme begins at 8am with registrations, then music from local performers John and Linda Cant at 8.30am. The opening ceremony is followed by the first of the weekend’s tours to Riverstone Castle and Parkside Quarries and shuttle bus trips into Oamaru. A “pet area” will be open at the racecourse, games played, and raffles held.

Tonight Johnny and the Cashtones and Gordon Ronson would entertain the crowd.

Tomorrow’s activities start with walking and cycling groups heading off for some exercise. Craft classes and trade displays are added to the tours to Riverstone, Parkside, and Oamaru.

A market day and public open day from 10am to 3pm allow everyone to go and see what motorhome life is all about.

Among the afternoon pastimes are a pet fancy dress competition, a display by the North Otago Dog Agility Club, and a ukulele jam. John McCabe is the evening entertainer.

Settling in . . . Chris King (left), from North Canterbury’s Waikuku Beach, pops over to see his neighbour at the Oamaru Racecourse, John Somerville and King Charles spaniel Gemma, from Rotorua. Mr Somerville led a group of fellow motorhome owners on a three-week trek from Rotorua to Oamaru, where they will liaise with the local organisers before hosting next year’s rally. PHOTO: SALLY BROOKER

Sunday dawns with an interdenominational church service, continues with more tours to Riverstone, Parkside, and Oamaru, and proceeds with a pet and owner look-alike, karaoke, and judging of an Oamaru stone carving contest.

The closing ceremony and flag lowering is scheduled for 7.15pm, followed by a performance from Christchurch group Vague As Brothers.

Mr Paton said Oamaru was a popular choice for the rally, because of its proximity to interesting places to visit and the accessibility of the base camp.

“People in Northland were dying to come here. Then they had health issues and couldn’t make it.

“They were heartbroken because they couldn’t come to Riverstone Castle.”

He loved the lifelong friendships he had made within the motorhome community.

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