The first Fiordland Rodeo Club rodeo was held in 1968 at the former Lands and Survey (now Landcorp) Lake Block cattle yards beside Lake Te Anau, where it is still held today. In 1973 the name was changed to the Te Anau Rodeo Club. Admission was Adults $1 Children 20 cents and cars were free.
In 1975 a Rodeo School was held by member Joe Jennings for locals using the Te Anau rodeo horses and to raise funds a pony raffle was held with tickets at 20 cents. Meetings were held in the Te Anau Hotel Conference room, the Whitestone woolshed, Alistair Macdonald’s residence at the Key and the Manapouri Motor Inn. The club had $923.43 in the bank to run the rodeo, $300 was spent in repairing the yards and making some gates.
Since the seventies members of the Lions Club have manned the gate for admission which has proven to be a very satisfactory arrangement benefitting both clubs that continues to this day.
The Secretaries office on the day has varied from a tent, portable hut, horse float and a small hut under the announcer’s stand which proved to be too small and hot and was changed to a borrowed caravan. Now we have the use of a truck loaned by Evans Freight or Northern Southland Transport.
In 1979 admission had increased to Adults $1.50 and Children 50 cents. To help with roping and bucking stock the Mataura, Waikaia, Wanaka and Invercargill clubs at times have loaned stock for the day. It has been good that these clubs have all worked in together helping each other with animals. Quite often Te Anau horses were loaned out to these clubs if they were short.
In 1984 Lindsay Wheeler was made a Life Member and was presented with an engraved rodeo belt buckle. Since 1968 Lindsay and his wife Margaret had done a lot to help with the running of the club and keeping it alive. Lindsay and Margaret carried on their support till 1999 when they moved to Alexandra.
Around 1983/84 the Western Riding Club held their annual competition at the rodeo grounds after the main rodeo. This carried on for about eight years when it closed due to a lack of support. Also the local Vintage Club held various demonstrations of vintage machinery at the rodeo grounds until 1992.
Around 1988/89 the embankment was constructed which is a vast improvement from earlier days when the ground was level and people were trying to see over other people and umbrellas.
In 1994 long standing and valuable club member and secretary for 8 years, Ron Galland met an untimely and accidental death. As a tribute the Galland family presented a memorial trophy of a saddle bronc rider carved in leather to be won annually by the Second Division cowboy who earns the most prize money during the rodeo.
The following year George Reid passed away. He was also a staunch member like Ron in the grazing of horses, cattle and supplying of stock for the rodeo and working at it.
There is always ongoing maintenance of the grounds and stock yards as age combined with wear and tear sometimes sees rails broken that need replacing.
The bucking chutes and yards behind are made of metal and were upgraded in 1997 replacing the wooden gates at a cost of $6,449.36. Many a working bee has been held over the years in the continual maintenance and upgrading of the yards.
In 1997 after 21 outstanding years as President, Alistair Macdonald resigned and as he said at the time he felt he had has his turn and it was time for young blood to take the reins. Alistair and his wife Sharon had done a fantastic job for the club whether catering with food or running of stock, grazing or otherwise. Nothing was any trouble, if it was wanted it was done. These two are the sort of people who have helped hold the club together over the years.
The club has been fortunate over the years in having few bad injuries. In earlier days the local Doctors at the time plus Nurses were rung and attended. In later years the Fiordland Ambulance has provided full coverage on the day which is very much appreciated by the club. No doubt this is peace of mind for the cowboys as rodeo can be a dangerous sport which some cowboys will no doubt tell you.
The actual rodeo day varied in earlier years from the 4th, 5th, to the 7th and 8th January. Then finally in 1981 to 3rd January until 2009 when it was changed to 30th December to help spread the days between the rodeos currently held over the Christmas period.
While the club owns it’s own bucking horses there is always the problem of where they can be grazed for 12 months of the year. We have been fortunate in having people in the Te Anau Basin that have helped out in the past. Namely Lands and Survey (now Landcorp), the Cockburn brothers of Mt Prospect, Alistair Macdonald of The Plains Station, Ron Galland of Elmwood Station, Mararoa Station and Craig Speight of Cheviot Downs who has in the past and is still currently grazing horses for the club. Also horses are again grazing at Mt Prospect where there is a string of Southland and Te Anau horses that we now share between us.
Steers and Bulls were often sourced from local farmers for the Bullride events but this became a major problem as suitable local stock is mainly unobtainable. Currently the club hires Brahma bulls off Ian Nichol from Middlemarch for the Open Bullride and steers courtesy of the Butson family from Mt Nicholas Station for the 2nd Div Bullride.
Calves for the junior events have not always been easy to source but the club has been fortunate that Andrew Clegg has usually been able to supply enough stock for the younger competitors. Recently Roberto Lombardi supplied calves for the Children’s Calf Ride. Sheep have come from Mararoa Station for the Children's Sheep Ride. For a long time food was never available on the ground as the starting time was always about midday and most people had had their lunch by then. One of the first caterers was the local Fiordland Rotary Club chip van who still provide food today. Later the Te Anau Rugby Club ran a barbecue. Now various catering vans provide food and these have all added to the day and coped with the crowds especially with later start times