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Christmas Festival all about kids

GILL ALCOCK
Last updated 12:25 05/12/2012
Hannah Thompson
GEORGE GARDNER
CHRISTMAS WISHES: Hannah Thompson, 4, gets her moment with Santa.

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It was less sitting down and watching and more getting up and taking part when the new-look Christmas Festival replaced the Santa Parade to herald the start of the festive season.

The static festival closed off Ocean View Rd on Saturday afternoon and provided plenty of entertainment. Older children enjoyed duelling, a bouncy castle and basketball hoops while little ones got to have their faces painted and meet the big man himself - Father Christmas.

The new Santa's grotto initiative, set up inside the foyer of the Bayleys' office next to Take Note, was a huge hit. Queues quickly formed after Santa's arrival atop fire chief Ron Leonard's vintage fire truck.

The day was all about children so the youngsters also provided the entertainment. Performances by Porscha Colman and guitarist Ben Schwarz, Mitzi O'Brien and Jean Fraser-Holt, all accompanied by Pat Urlich on piano, had the crowd spell bound and joining in, in equal measure.

A hip-hop performance from the World's Oldest Flash Mob also had the festival goers enthralled.

Static displays from community groups offered advice and information. Waiheke Health Trust, Piritahi Hau Ora and the Oneroa Medical Centre handed out fresh fruit and glasses of water to keep the crowds hydrated and stocked up with vitamin C.

Zebez Kids Zone won the top prize of $250 awarded by the Waiheke Local Board. Waiheke Toy Library and Waiheke Combined Churches won highly commended awards of Fullers ferry tickets and a trip to Auckland Zoo. The St John stall took the People's Choice award of $250.

An initiative by Oneroa businesses to donate cash for a $2000 travel prize draw for customers spending $20 or more proved a huge hit. Marion Bridge was picked out as the winner and will be spending her prize at United Travel Waiheke.

"I'm gobsmacked!" she says.

Local board member and event organiser Don McKenzie says Santa and the weather cast their magic spell over the new Christmas Festival.

"It was a great success and, on behalf of the Waiheke Local Board, I want to thank all who made a contribution. Special thanks to the community groups who took the time to set up displays."

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