Bilbeau Waggins harnesses Hobbit love
Grand opening Saturday, November 30 10am - 2pm South end Railside by the Green First there was Hobbiton, then there was the Gatehouse, and now Matamata has another Lord of the Rings tourism drawcard under its belt.
Local Zea Marks is launching a Tolkienthemed horse and carriage business called Bilbeau Waggins this Saturday.
The former track worker will offer 15 minute rides through Centennial Drive to tourists Tuesday through Saturday, as well as half-price rides to locals.
‘‘ I think it’s quite unique,’’ she said.
‘‘It’s not an everyday opportunity people have anymore.’’
The business will be based at the south end of Railside by the Green to make the most of foot traffic from tourist buses.
‘‘The tourism coming here is based around The Lord of the Rings and Hobbiton so I think that’s the advantage we have,’’ said Zea, who will drive the carriage dressed in hobbit attire.
The concept for Bilbeau Waggins was first thought up two years ago in a carpark outside some markets in Tauranga.
Zea was running a wedding carriage business in the Bay of Plenty and had taken some friends for a ride to the markets.
‘‘ The amount of people that came up to me and asked if I was giving rides was amazing.
‘‘I thought: ‘Wow, I should think of moving into tourism.’’’
After meeting with Jan Barnes, who was deputy mayor at the time, and Matamata Public Relations Association manager Sue Whiting, she decided it was the way to go.
‘‘I sold my business and I reinvested in a bigger carriage and a bigger horse.’’
Zea spent the next two years planning, working out the schedules of tourist buses, and training her new horse Honey.
Following presentations to council, Railside by the Green and the Centennial Drive Committee, she was permitted the use of public land for one year.
‘‘There was just 100 per cent support,’’ she said
‘‘Everyone thought it was a fantastic idea.’’
Local horse trainer Wayne Hillis came on as a business partner and there are plans to expand the outfit in the next few years.
Zea, who is adamant Bilbeau Waggins will benefit the community, has signed up to represent the local Red Cross at this year’s Santa Parade.
Locals are invited to ride in the carriage year round for half price, providing they have proof of address and ID. It will also be available for functions and weddings.
See bilbeauwaggins. co.nz
Old world experience: Centennial Drive Committee chairman David Dawson, i-SITE manager Memorie Brooky, councillor Leonie Tisch and mayor Jan Barnes were the first to take a ride. Also pictured are owners Zea Marks and Wayne Hillis, standing.