Wagga’s ‘Hoedown Showdown’ has quickly established itself as an annual highlight in the Riverina and is an all-important fundraiser for Riding for the Disabled (RDA).
Local performers Lee Hesketh and Aaron Oldaker originally joined forces to stage the hoedown three years ago as part of Wagga Wagga Takes 2 and have continued to support the event each year.
“It’s just such a fun event and something that’s really family-orientated,” explained Lee.
“There are so many different facets to it that just get everybody up and involved. There’s the live music, line dancing – this year there are pony rides and we’ve got the watermelon eating contest, which is absolutely hilarious!”
“We also have the ‘balloon-pop-lucky-dip’, which is our major event.”
With dozens of donated items up for grabs, punters can purchase a balloon to pop and claim the prize that corresponds to the number inside.
“That’s a lot of fun to watch, and in the first year we’d actually sold out before everybody started turning up!” she laughed.
“We’ve got over 100 prizes on the table, ready to go, from hotel accommodations to beautiful paintings and so many different things.”
RDA secretary Dawn Haddon said it was wonderful to see so much support from the community for the unique local charity.
“RDA provides riding lessons for people with a disability, and for those who can’t get on a horse we’ve now got the carts, which have become really popular and they are wheelchair accessible.
Research shows that working with animals, and horses in particular, has therapeutic benefits for people with a disability and Dawn said the volunteers also enjoyed the experience.
“They see the joy in people’s faces when they get on a horse for the first time or experience just being up close to a horse and they keep coming back to donate their time,” she said.
Aaron Oldaker is a well known local pub-rocker and part of the band Radio Velvet.
“This year we will perform as a three-piece version of Radio Velvet, and for this event we’re going to change our name to Rodeo Velvet,” he said.
“We’re not modifying our setlist too much, but we’re going to be making it a little bit more country.
“Pub rock with a twang you could say!”
As a rider and the owner of several horses of his own, Aaron said working with RDA was a natural fit.
“I especially love the way Riding for the Disabled is run,” he said.
“It’s local – everything goes to people in the local community – and they are just really lovely people with great hearts.”
Lee agreed that it was great to support a local initiative.
“It is all self-funded, so they’re always looking for ways to raise funds for the running of the centre,” she said.
“They’re a great bunch of people and the Hoedown Showdown is just so much fun.”
The Hoedown Showdown kicks off on Saturday 10 February.