27 January 2022 | Written by Bachcare Holiday Homes

History of the Taihape Gumboot

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Taihape Gumboot Sculpture

taihape gumboot

What is the history of the Taihape Gumboot, when was it built, and how do New Zealanders celebrate Taihape Gumboot Day? We’ll answer these questions – and tell you about some of the other attractions in New Zealand – in the article below. 

What Is the Taihape Gumboot?

gumboot statue in taihape

If you’re not a native, you might be wondering what in the world a gumboot is and how one could be such a major attraction. Gumboots, sometimes known as Wellington boots, are waterproof footwear made from rubber or PVC. 

Most gumboots come up to just below the knee, but you can find shorter versions. They come in various colors and patterns. Though gumboots can be fashion-forward, they mostly protect your feet and lower legs from wet conditions. 

Gumboots are ideal for heavy rains and working in muddy fields, making them essential for many New Zealand farmers. For the farmers of Taihape, the gumboot is more than protective footwear; it’s their claim to fame!

The History of the Taihape Gumboot

fred dagg gumboot statue

It all began with a popular fictional television character. New Zealand native and satirist, John Clarke crafted the character Fred Dagg to represent the average Kiwi farmer, complete with gumboots. When Clarke settled on Taihape as Fred Dagg’s hometown, it shone a spotlight on the small town. 

This farming community didn’t miss out on the opportunity Clarke gave them! Taihape’s citizens fully embraced the character and his gumboots. It didn’t take long for the town to earn the title “Gumboot Capital of the World,” which eventually paved the way for an annual day of celebration, Gumboot Day.

Taihape truly celebrated its fifteen minutes of fame and built a name on the gumboot. The town grew around the concept and features several themed attractions, including a quilt shop and tearooms, waiting to welcome visitors. 

Celebrating Taihape Gumboot Day

Taihape held the first Gumboot Day festivities on April 9, 1985. The original event featured games, window displays, and plenty of Fred Dagg look-alikes. It also marked the town’s opportunity to save itself. 

Feeling the pain of rising costs and reduced jobs, Taihape seized on its moment on television and created an event to sell the town as a destination with plenty to offer. Gumboot Day created an opportunity to attract tourists and give them a reason to keep coming back.

Thankfully, Gumboot Day was a hit that turned into an annual event. It’s held on the Tuesday following Easter and draws a larger crowd every year. 

This event sounds absolutely hilarious and wonderful—and it is. There is plenty of fun to be had, like gumboot tossing, a “shoot-the-loop” competition, and even a best-dressed gumboot competition. Explore the trade stalls and vintage vehicles, munch on goodies from the food stands, take in live music, and more!

Plus, the event now features the North Island Boot Throwing Championships! Competitors have the opportunity to qualify for Nationals. Of course, you don’t have to compete with the pros; even kids can try their hands at tossing gumboots for fun.

The Taihape Gumboot Sculpture

gumboot sculpture taihape

Everybody knows that having a title and a special day requires some sort of monument to commemorate both. The town of Taihape understood the assignment and hired Jeff Thompson to craft the fabulous sculpture in 2000 as part of a millennium celebration. 

Who knew that a massive rubber boot could be so fun? Unlike a typical gumboot, this gigantic statue is composed of corrugated iron and number eight wire in various colors, including plenty of rusty spots. Don’t let the rust and dents trouble you—it’s meant to look that way, and it doesn’t stop people from taking pictures with it. 

The 3400 x 5500 x 1800 mm metal boot originally stood in the Outback. It was ultimately relocated to State Highway 1 where it stands today. The town’s Meet’n Greet Group added signage in 2015.

Notably, the small town has disagreed over the state of the gumboot over the years. In 2016, Taihape debated over whether to repaint their famous fixture to reflect better on the town. Even local businesses disagreed on how to handle it; many appreciated the rustic look and argued that people still played on it and took plenty of photos.

What Else Is There to See in Taihape? 

Want to extend your trip? There are many things to do around Taihape, including these nearby attractions.

Two-day Tongariro Landscape Workshop
Landscape photographers will love the two-day landscape photography workshop in Tongariro National Park. During Ken Wright’s workshop, travelers learn to shoot many subjects at various times of the day.
White Water Rafting on the Rangitikei River
Start River Valley Rafting’s white water rafting trip with easy sections of class 2 and 3 rapids, then gradually work up to grade 5 rapids. It takes around two hours and covers over 11 km of river.
Whanganui River Dories
Grab your gumboots and head out to camp in style! Dories offer a level of comfort, charm, and elegance that you don’t get with other boats. They’re dry, quick on the water, and have enough space to carry quality camping equipment.
River Valley Stables
Horseback riders of all skill levels can learn about natural horsemanship and ride with freedom at River Valley Stables. Plus, the backdrop is stunningly beautiful central North Island hill country.
History buffs will enjoy the National Armory Museum, a 1300 square foot fortress-like museum with a bridge and moat. It serves as a memorial to New Zealand’s soldiers and the battles fought. The military also uses it for research and training.

To Taihape and Beyond 

Are you ready to visit Taihape and its famous gumboot sculpture? Maybe you care to throw for the world record or compete for best-dressed. Either way, there is plenty to explore and experience in and around Taihape, New Zealand. Book your holiday through Bachcare for an unforgettable experience.

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