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Vinegar Hill Camp

Vinegar Hill is a camping area on the Rangitikei river, within the Putai Ngahere reserve in the Manawatu-Whanganui region, just north of Hunterville.

Each year from mid December to early January, gay, lesbian, transgender, and rainbow folks and their whanau gather for camping and D.I.Y. community events over the Christmas and New Year holidays. It is not a commercial ‘event’, but simply a gathering of community at a camp ground, it is entirely non-commercial, so it remains community driven and you can relax without people trying to sell you anything.

For the community to take care of it’s own needs, a ‘Queen’s tax’ is payable, this cost is $10 total per person, which is paid to the Queen at The Palace (signposted). This helps to cover community costs, such as the stage, trailer hire for collecting bonfire wood, sound and lighting equipment, etc. A rainbow wristband is issued, which allows you to attend community events and enter competitions.

For those attending only on New Years eve, Queens taxes are $5.


Manawatu District Council charges the following camp fees per night:

Adult $10.00 each
Children $4.00 each
Adult (per week) $50.00 each
Children (under 12 years, per week) $20.00 each

These are paid at the signposted caravan near the gate, and a receipt and council wristband are issued.

The Council provides portaloos, glass recycling, and trash skips, all-genders toilet and lockable (cold) shower blocks at the southern (gay) and northern (family) ends of camp. These are mobility accessible but the southern end block is up a rise on lawn (cane and crutches users usually manage ok, but some wheelchair users may struggle). There are fresh water taps outside the toilet blocks. There are also security and Police stationed near the gate for new years eve.

Note: there are no hot showers or BBQs provided, and no cellphone reception.

No vehicle entry to the campground is allowed after 7pm on new years eve, so make sure you arrive before then

Our Community

The Vinegar Hill community is diverse and varied, all ages sizes ethnicities and backgrounds, from all around the Aotearoa and beyond. We value the differences between us, as well as our shared histories and experiences. Vinegar Hill draws people from near and far, from grandparents to mokopuna. Some have been coming for decades, and every year there are new faces and new returns.

Come along to the community events and get involved.

Note: Transphobia, misogyny, racism, and other discriminatory nonsense is not welcome at camp. We love and cherish all our Rainbow whanau.

Camp Etiquette

Do be respectful and considerate of other campers
Do keep dogs in a pen or on a leash, and clean up after them
Do turn generators off at 8pm
Do turn music off at 11pm (2am on new years)
Do lock valuables in a vehicle on new years eve if your campsite will be unattended
Do supervise kids near the river and fires
Do use the toilets provided (not the bushes or riverbank)
Do join in community events
Do respect Papatuanuku – take only photos and leave only footprints

Some years people have set up a discreet adults only maze with safer sex supplies provided, for those who prefer to take new friends somewhere other than their tent at night. If you’d like to help with this, talk with the Queen.

Anyone experiencing problems can go to The Palace (signposted) and talk with the Queen, who is our liaison with the council and the community, and can help sort out any issues.

Community Life

Kai at the Camp Kitchen

You will find the Camp Kitchen near the bathroom block at the southern end of the campground. There are free cups of tea, breakfast, and plenty of friendly people to make you feel at home,

Commercial sales are banned at Vinegar Hill, so for those who forget to bring supplies the camp kitchen will see you through!

Community Events

Every year there are a series of events from Christmas to New Year eve. which often include Fashion of the Fields competition and runway, Pick a Purse, the annual ‘girls vs boys’ softball game (trans folks welcome, non-binary people choose which team to join).

Some years have seen film screenings, lube wrestling, cooking competitions, and parties with various themes hosted by different campsites. Most events are family friendly, some are adult themed (generally after 8pm).

New Year’s Eve Party

Entertainment usually kicks off around 8pm with the lighting of a huge bonfire and a series of competitions on stage, such as best buns and best boobs. This is followed by performances, from poetry to drag shows to folk bands to metal and hip hop, to queer burlesque striptease, both fresh new amateur acts and seasoned professionals among the community. Around 11pm entertainment switches to a DJ, then shortly before the new year count down prizes are given for the Best Campsite, Best Costume, and other awards, followed by the coronation of the new Queen, and a dance party till 2am.

Host a Community Event

If you would like to host a community event or party at your campsite or in the communal area, please talk with the Queen in advance so it can be put on the community notice board program.

Perform on New Years Eve

You don’t have to be a professional to perform on New Years Eve! If you would like to offer your poetry, singing, drag show, a competition, MC skills, stage management, or any other help with the entertainment, please talk with the Queen in advance.

Medics

If you have first aide or medic training and could assist in an emergency, please contact the Queen.

The Queer History of Vinegar Hill

Six gay men first camped at Vinegar Hill in January 1975 or 1977, a decade before Homosexual Law Reform decriminalised being gay in 1986.

By the early 1980s, Vinegar Hill had developed it’s own culture. The first Queen, Bill Armstrong, was appointed in 1985 to reign at the 1986 camp, by Mal Vaughn of Wellington’s gay bar Scotty and Mal’s (or S&M’s).

Initially, the idea of “Queen of Vinegar Hill” was based on a comedic idea of beauty queens, but this later developed into an idea of appointed royalty. Some of the early coronations were recorded under their drag names.

Queen’s Council

The Queen’s Council is made up of previous Queens. As well as nominating and electing the new Queen each year, it is the job of the Queen’s Council members to advise and assist the Queen in organising for community life at camp.

Previous Queens include: Wellamiena Armstrong, Mal Kennedy-Vaughan (née Vaughan), Pearl Pawson, A-Malcolm-B, Wanda Wilkinson, Dorothy Gibbs, Lilac Draper, Mike “Bikie Binzi” Binis, Slimmy Simmy, Sheela Shitface Johnston, Daniel Fielding, Ian Heteraka, Lyn and Heather, Jimmi Hart, Kim and Chris, Neil Day, Geoff Robinson, Calum Bennachie, Colin Waterhouse, Toni Farrow, Marc Smith, (Celine) Dion Leslie, Jenni James, Daniel Corney, Aaron King, Lynette Knox, Murray Smith (Muriel), Andrew Morgan (Nurse Gladys), Shane Young, David Playle, Iria Pene, Andrew Fletcher, Ian and Tisha Klien, and Gary Duncan.

Queen of Vinegar Hill

Members of The Queens Council hold a meeting on December 31st each year to elect a new Queen. The new Queen is crowned shortly before midnight during the New Year celebration, and will reign during the following year’s celebrations.

The duties of the Queen include liaising with the Manawatu district Council, organising the stage, MC, performers and entertainment, and wood collection for the New Year bonfire, collecting the Queen’s taxes, etc. The Queen’s name is engraved on the Vinegar Hill Queens’ trophy.

To be elected Queen, a person must have attended for at least 5 years, and have provided service to the Vinegar Hill community.

Personal Items to Consider Bringing

  • Comfy clothes, swimwear, dress ups
  • Safer sex supplies if needed
  • Cash
  • Tent
  • Bed roll/ airbed/ mattress/stretcher
  • Blankets, sheets/sleeping bag
  • Pillow
  • Ear plugs
  • Towels
  • Toiletries eg soap, wet wipes, extra T-paper
  • Torch + battery or cellphone + car charger
  • Hormones or medications
  • Power Bank/spare battery
  • Vape charger
  • Cupboard/food crate
  • Chilly bin
  • Personal kitchenware – plate/bowl/utensils
  • Food

Your Campsite Kitchen

  • Kitchen /lounge gazebo
  • Kitchen bench
  • Solar fairy lights/lighting
  • Cookers
  • Gas bottles or cans
  • Kitchen table
  • Chairs
  • Dishwashing tub, dishwash liquid, Scrubber, Buckets, Tea towels (or wetwipes)
  • Pots and pans
  • Chopping boards and sharp knives
  • Grater
  • Mixing/salad bowls
  • Coffee plunger
  • Can opener

Your Campsite Living

  • Lounge gazebo
  • Music speakers
  • Beanbags or camp chairs
  • Solar candles/ lighting/safe fire torches
  • clock (no cellphone reception)
  • Ropes
  • Flags/privacy screen fabric
  • Falas/floor mats

Essential Consumables

  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen SPF 50+
  • First aide kit 
  • Gas bottles for cooking
  • Firewood
  • ICE
  • Water
  • Kitchen wipes
  • Wet wipes

What People Say

Another successful year at v hill. I wana thank everyone who helps put on this event we all enjoy. I wana thank everyone who helps make it safe for our children to enjoy as well.

Monique

A big thank you to everyone at v hill. Especially Ryan and his beautiful mahi in the camp kitchen.
I didn’t take any photos but had such a blast at my second v hill! Thank you all you beautiful people!

Hanna

A massive thank you to all for being so loving an embracing […] it was a pleasure to see that the same welcoming love I was shown when I first drove down that drive is still alive and well today.

Rhys

Thankyou so much to everyone who helped me enjoy my first Vinegar Hill! Such a blast!

Eddy

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