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Milestones at this year's Polyfest

TAO LIN
Last updated 05:00 14/03/2014

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It's a celebration of firsts and milestones at this year's ASB Polyfest.

The 39th event has attracted a record 62 schools - a huge growth from the inaugural festival in 1976, when just four schools took part.

Adding to the excitement of the four-day competition is the much-anticipated appearance of Prime Minister John Key.

It's the first time in about two decades that a sitting prime minister has visited Polyfest.

Mr Key is scheduled to attend and speak at a function this afternoon before going behind the scenes at the Tongan stage.

A special powhiri started the festival on Wednesday morning, where guests were welcomed by Tainui and Pacific Island leaders.

Mayor Len Brown said this year is "historic" for Polyfest with the record number of schools taking part.

"It gets bigger and better each year," he say.

"The Polynesian spirit is the heart and soul of this place."

Wednesday also saw the start of the first competitive diversity stage performances, a category that hasn't been officially judged until this year.

A total of 67 groups from 19 different cultures performed on the diversity stage, with South African, Hawaiian and Serbian groups featuring for the first time.

Tomorrow, the last day of the festival, will see several big rivals battle it out for the top prizes.

James Cook High School will be seeking to upset Western Springs College in its bid for three consecutive division one titles on the Maori stage, while Mangere College will defend its overall title on the Cook Islands stage from 2012 winners Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate.

ASB Polyfest is taking place at the Manukau Sports Bowl, 1 Boundary Rd. Entry is $5, preschool children free. Go to asbpolyfest.co.nz for more information.

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- Manukau Courier

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