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200,000 people and a tonne of tropical tastes

One day, 25 degrees, 200,000 people and a tonne of tropical tastes

Pasifika Festival day has once again proven to be a huge success, attracting a record-breaking crowd of more than 210,000 to Western Springs stadium and lakeside today.

The festivities kicked off last night with the Air New Zealand Opening Night Concert which boasted a star-studded line up of artists including Sela Mahe, Ben Makisi, Sara Jane Auva’a and Wairere. They were joined by firedancers and a variety of other performers who wowed the 15,000 strong crowd.

The Pacific Music Awards, opened by Prime Minister Helen Clark, provided a fitting finale to the concert. They honoured the best in Pacific music over the past 12 months and were dedicated to Phil Fuemana, who passed away suddenly last week. Mr Fuemana made a huge contribution to fostering Pasifika hip-hop talent in New Zealand and was the founder of Urban Pasifika Records.

Visitors today have enjoyed a range of sights, sounds and tastes at the festival. The eight SPARC cultural villages and 390 stalls offered a wide range of handicrafts, traditional foods, cultural performances, and demonstrations such as traditional weaving, canoe carving and making dance costumes.

Attendees have also been treated to a host of performances by the big winners at last night’s awards. The Air New Zealand Contemporary Stage featured Tha Feelstyle who won three awards (Niu FM best Pacific Hip Hop Artist, the New Zealand Music Industry Commission Best Pacific Male Artist, and together with Ian Seumanu, the APRA Best Pacific Song award), Adeaze, who won Radio 531pi Best Pacific Group, Sara-Jane Auva’a, winner of the C4 Best Pacific Female Artist award, and Ardijah, winners of the Tui for the Niu FM Best Pacific Music Album.

Other highlights of the day included a 90 minute hip hop dance competition called OFF DA HOOK (won by Wymondley Primary School), the inaugural Pacific Songwriters’ Competition hosted by Radio 531pi and a fashion show with a Pacific feel entitled Designers Dream – A Passion for Fashion. The day concluded with world-renowned singer Fiji closing the Air New Zealand Contemporary Stage and then appearing after Black Rose, who was a huge crowd pleaser, to close the Radio 531pi Cultural Stage.

The Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Helen Clark, who arrived at the festival at 12.30pm, was effusive in her praise of the event. She did a full round of the festival to see the stalls, the SPARC cultural villages and the great lineup of entertainment on the five stages.

Auckland City project manager Mere Lomaloma Elliott says: “We are delighted with the turnout – every year the quality of the festival gets better and its popularity grows. This year we have been excited to introduce the Pacific Music Awards and the big screen, both of which have taken the festival to another level and helped it to gain national and international recognition.

“We are very grateful to our great family of sponsors and the Pacific Island community because the event certainly wouldn't be the success it is without their support”, says Ms Lomaloma Elliott.

Pasifika Festival is one of more than 60 free events provided by Auckland City as part of the Ak@Play summer events programme. It is proudly sponsored by Air New Zealand, SPARC (Sport and Recreation New Zealand), Radio 531pi, The New Zealand Herald, Department of Labour, Creative New Zealand, APRA and the New Zealand Music Industry Commission (NZMIC), and Westpac.

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