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17 Apr 2023

The Hayes Family

Progress Valley musical duo Marylyn and Steven Hayes have been honoured with a Southland District Council Community Service Award for their contribution to music and entertainment.

The couple were bestowed the award by Southland Mayor Rob Scott during a ceremony at Tokanui on Sunday 16 April.

Waihopai Toetoe Community Board chairperson Pam Yorke said the Hayes had a remarkable array of musical achievements since first performing in the Niagara Hall and at the Progress Valley cattle sales many years ago.

“As a family they always lead the way in providing music for our social occasions – always happy to include friends,” she said.

The Hayes family had been part of the local community for over 50 years with Steven and Marylyn resident on the family farm in Progress Valley.

“Steven’s father and grandfather both played a bit of the fiddle, a passion which was passed down to Steven, who has then passed down to his own children.”

In 1981, members of the family became well-known as the Possum Pickers and were highly recommended at the New Zealand Gold Guitar Awards in Gore. The following year they were named New Zealand Country Music Entertainers of the Year before earning the coveted overall title in 1983. This was followed by a trip to the Tamworth Country Music Awards in Australia where they placed second overall.

In 2008, the Possum Pickers were inductees into the Hands of Fame at the Gold Guitars in Gore.

The Hayes family have encouraged several other locals to enter the Gold Guitars competition, helping them to reach their goals.

In 2009 the first Niagara Falls Bluegrass Festival was held in Niagara, an event Steven and the Progress Valley Possum Pickers were instrumental in organising.

“It was all about having fun and the festival continues to be held,” Mrs Yorke said.

“Steven is a humble man of few words. However, when he starts to play his fiddle it does the talking.”

In 2016, he was voted the Ascot Park Hotel Southland Entertainer of the Year and recorded his first solo album, Catlins Fiddler, in 2018. Music on the album comprised “alternative country with bluegrass running through it”. His family was involved in making the album, with Marylyn doing the backing vocals and playing the accordion, son Lachie harmonising and daughter Kelsi playing tenor banjo.

The family has appeared on television in shows such as Country Calendar and ran the Muddy Water Festival at Tokanui for 10 years.

“Locally our community have been privileged to enjoy their entertainment year after year – hoedowns for all occasions. We have had Irish nights, Scottish nights, Easter Bonnets and more,” Mrs Yorke said.

“Words seem insufficient to praise this family as it still happens today in the younger generation. From bush picnics to shearing sheds, local barbecues to music festivals, and the more formal occasions.

“The Hayes family have been the backbone of this southern area’s community music, which is such an uplifting experience for the locals.”

The Waihopai Toetoe Community Board and Southland District Council are proud to recognise Steven and Marylyn Hayes as outstanding citizens and very deserving of a community service award.

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