WoolOn and Hayden Johnston meet in a piece of woolly synergy this week when the creative fashion design show takes to the catwalk at his Tarras winery.

Two years ago, when the show looked poised to move from Alexandra to the Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell, Mr Johnston, owner of The Canyon at Tarras Vineyards, emailed WoolOn organisers offering his venue.

The 2020 show never happened intervened committee’s search continued.

Mr Johnston said a friend recommended his venue and with more synergy, the idea bore fruit.

In an ironic twist, the main buildings that make up his venue came from the motorsport park; the distinctive curved-roofed building once housed The Nose restaurant, and was moved to the new site in 2016, along with the movie theatre.

People enter through a giant wine barrel that acts as a gateway to the final entrance, where they get the full impact of the Pisa and Hawkdun ranges. The terrace leads to a pond and rock waterfall linking both buildings.

It had all been carefully thought out over nearly two decades of development but turned out to be more expensive than the Dunedin man envisaged. He had bought an orchard in Earnscleugh and the winery site in 2002 and had to sell one property to develop the other.

“I’m very fussy and that’s reflected in the quality.”

“It’s so great being able to host the WoolOn. It’s always been my dream to do something like this and to celebrate what this place has to offer with the community.

The final piece of synergy is the winery’s location, right in the heart of merino country and this week, human performers will be treading the boards wearing the work of 40 WoolOn entrants.

Ready for action… The Canyon event space will be used to stage creative fashion design event WoolOn this year. PHOTO: MARY-JO TOHILL

Holding a wool-based event was a great fit, he said.

“We’re a part of what was Bendigo Station, so we’re right in fine wool country.”

Since establishing the business, he felt he had become part of the rural community with many farming families choosing to hold their weddings and key events at the winery.

“What’s good about holding the event here is that it does make it more accessible for Wanaka and Queenstown people to support, while still only being half an hour from Alexandra. WoolOn is still an Alexandra event, that’s where it has its roots, and this still makes it a Central Otago event.”

WoolOn governance committee chairwoman Mary Hinsen said Mr Johnston’s contribution meant the event could continue this year.

“The to a fashion event. It’s smaller and more intimate and people can get up close and personal to the garments.”

The final event will be held at Central Stories Museum and Art Gallery on Sunday, with a wool craft and technique expo, which also reinforces the show’s strong Alexandra roots.

WoolOn 2021 will be held from August 13-15.

Wooly valley… The view from behind The Canyon winery where this year’s WoolOn will be staged in the heart of merino country near Tarras. PHOTO: MARY-JO TOHILL