Palmerston North was alive with community spirit as hundreds of people flocked to Highbury to celebrate the holiday festivities.
The suburb's inaugural Christmas in the Park was held last night and friends and families brought blankets and chairs to Farnham Park to watch the entertainment.
Te Aroha Noa community services group, with the help of the Palmerston North City Council and commercial sponsors, put together the Christmas celebrations, which included a bouncy castle, a free sausage sizzle, face painting, dance groups and giveaways.
An "It Factor" talent quest ran alongside the event with the finalists Kiarn Tonihi, 10, from Awapuni School, Maiah Gilbert, 8, from Palmerston North Adventist Christian School, and Quincy-Jazz Ellis, 11, from Monrad Intermediate, strutting their stuff on stage.
Black Fern and Manawatu policewoman Selica Winiata, who was handing out rugby balls, said it was important to encourage community cohesion through events such as Christmas in the Park.
"The youth that we've got are our next generation, we've got to inspire them and be good role models for them to look up to."
Awapuni couple Celesse Taplin and Robert McDermott said Highbury produced some talented people and it was nice to see it celebrated. "I just wanted to bring my children along, interact with others, see the culture and what our community is all about," Ms Taplin said.
"I'm an old boy of Highbury, I've lived here on and off for the last 24 years," Mr McDermott said.
"We may live in an area that is of a lower socio-economic [level] and is poverty stricken, but we still manage to grow up and be rich inside."
Event co-ordinator Julia Fonotia said the event was a chance to showcase the good things going on in Highbury in a family-friendly environment. "Sometimes there is a lot of negativity about Highbury . . . but there's a lot more positive stuff going on than people think and it's important to highlight that and hopefully we can get the rest of Palmerston North to be interested in it as well. "I've seen a lot of people who aren't from Highbury here and it's awesome."
- Manawatu Standard
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