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Aloha from New Zealand
Article and Photos by Clayton Grusing. Published in the Humps N' Horns Bull Riding News, December 2007 (Vol. 10 No. 8)

Nina Gonzales Posting Hawaiian Flag at Methven Rodeo
The Naturally Hawaiian Rodeo Team, led by bullfighter and wildlife artist Patrick Ching, flew to New Zealand to compete in the Big Methven Rodeo.  The trip preparations included a Cowboy Hoedown and auction to help fund their trek to the Southern Hemisphere.  A week before the rodeo several members of the team arrived in Methven to get acclimated to the higher altitude and colder weather than their tropic home.  The Methven Rodeo Club and the people of Methven were so generous in every aspect of the trip from lodging, barbeque and assisting them to retrieve all their rodeo gear from the agricultural customs agency.  As a sidenote, make sure to check New Zealand agricultural regulations prior to bringing anything into the country that has had contact with livestock.  
The day before the first rodeo, the clouds went away andDean Suzuki riding Extreme at Winchester, New Zealand the winds calmed to a pleasant breeze, providing perfect rodeo weather.  Patrick was asked to assist as “Close Up New Zealand” did a television special on cowboy protection bullfighters with Matt Darmody.  The Hawaiian rodeo team provided Jason Lau as the bull rider for the special and Patrick was there to back Matt as needed.  The afternoon before the Winchester rodeo the rest of the team members arrived with all the ropes and gear previously seized by customs.   That night the Methven Rodeo Club threw an awesome barbeque at Barker’s Lodge.  This event allowed the team to meet several local competitors and fill everyone’s bellies with some nice thick steak. 
Early Saturday morning most of the guys packed in the van and were off to Winchester for the first rodeo. Both rodeos were sanctioned by the New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Jason Lau taking second place on Trick or TreatAssociation.  Thanks to several newspaper articles, the local cowboys were expecting the team and were very excited to help out where they could.  The bull riders were able to visit with Johnny Ward, the New Zealand champion bull rider, about the tendencies of the bulls they drew. Patrick came along to support the competitors, but was not allowed to provide his regular bullfighting services since he would need to ensure his health to headline the Methven rodeo.  Jason Lau and Alan Duarte competed in the team roping, then Alan tied his calf in the rope and tie (calf roping).  Jason Lau, Dean Suzuki, Nelson Junco and Jeremy Starr were educated by with some tough bulls of New Zealand.  Justin Gonzales demonstrated a ride that felt like twelve seconds, but the official time was only 7.5 seconds.  His spectacular dismount gained him a dislocated shoulder that would prove problematic the following day.  The riders all walked away without broken bones and with a new level of confidence, ready for the Big Methven. Justin Gonzales riding at Methven Rodeo

The next morning there was a sense of excitement throughout the lodge as everyone was getting ready for the main event.  Once again the Hawaiians packed into the van and were off to the rodeo.  Seven in the morning seemed early for a rodeo, but the parking lots were already filling up with spectators even though the main performance didn’t start until 1:00.  Many of the spectators arrived at the rodeo grounds the night before to ensure they didn’t miss a thing.  With more than two hundred competitors the slack had to start as early as possible.  The team all made it into the main performance except two bull riders which fell in the slack just before the grand entry.  Nelson Junco was the first bull rider to ride followed by Jason Lau.  Jason drew Trick or Treat for a beautiful ride right in front of the chutes for a 77 point ride.  This score would place him in Jason Lau riding at Winchester, NZ rodeosecond place, which he retained through the rodeo’s nearly 30 bull rides.  The performance kicked off with the grand entry being led by Ol’ Glory carried by Hawaiian Leona Iseke followed by the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand flags.  In honor of the American visitors the Hawaiian flag, carried by Nina Gonzales, was also posted.  
Patrick got the kids involved with the stick pony race, complete with custom painted ponies.  With a crowd of around ten thousand there were plenty of kids to participate in the events.  Nina makes another appearance in the arena in the open barrel racing, but to her disadvantage she was introduced to her barrel horse the morning of the rodeo.  She made a good run, but it wasn’t enough to place her in the money.  To get everyone in the spirit Patrick called on volunteers from the audience for the cowboy hula bull.  Many brave (or intoxicated) individuals stepped up to show their lack of fear.  The Naturally Hawaiian rodeo team outfitted several of the volunteers with a hula skirt, a lei and a hula hoop and they followed Patrick into a Cowboy Hula bull at Methven, NZsemi-circle in front of the bucking shoots.  There they were instructed to place the small hula hoops around the necks of the bulls that would soon be joining them.  When the bulls were released one of the bulls was eager to get to know each of the brave souls in the arena.  Several of the guys were probably surprised the next day and curious where all the bruises on their bodies came from.
Then came the final event.  Justin was stuck to his bull until the injuries sustained the day before reared its ugly head and his shoulder was dislocated again, causing great pain and his ride to be cut short.  Jeremy Starr came out on the bull adequately named Extreme.  The bull is known for backing up as it bucks and throws riders over the front, which he did.  Once he locked on Jeremy’s location he planted a hoof right into his skull and proceeded to spin on top of his seemingly lifeless body.  Cowboy protection bullfighters were doing everything they could to get Extreme away from him.  Bullfighter Shane Bird threw himself on top of Jeremy and absorbed most of the impact until the bull moved out of the area.  St. John’s medical staff packaged the still motionless body and relocated him to an open field as they waited for a Medi-vac helicopter from Christchurch to expedite him to the hospital.  Dean Suzuki was still to ride, after just watching a fellow teammate take a stompin’.  As much as he tried not to let this psych him out, the bull was able to get out from under him before he made a qualified ride.  Patrick joined Jeremy in the helicopter, now preparing to lift off, enroute to the hospital and relayed his status back to the team that he was alert.  The Naturally Hawaiian rodeo team started their venture with the motto “No Cowboy left behind”, but when Jeremy requested to stay behind to heal, the team made an exception.  The rest of the team made it back to Hawaii safe, sound and ready for their next big adventure.  They are already talking about going back to New Zealand to compete again, and we would like to thank all the great people of New Zealand that helped make our trip so unbelievably awesome. 



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