Ra - the sun - was smiling on Whakatu Marae and Founders Heritage Park as hundreds were welcomed by powhiri to the fourth annual International Kai Fest.
The Waitangi Day celebration of culture and kai was attended by many hundreds more who weren't able to fit onto the marae grounds for the formal welcome.
Carol Hippolite, a key Kai Fest organiser, estimated that 10,000 people attended, including many tourists.
Plenty of the 50-plus food stalls had sold out of product by the end of the day, with Whakatu Marae's waka ama group serving a traditional Maori hangi to more than 400 hungry mouths.
Also popular were stalls offering whitebait fritter sandwiches, venison burgers and sandwiches, Maori fried bread and food from Pacific communities, Mrs Hippolite said.
She said many church and community groups fundraised at the event, and "a lot did very well".
Plenty of international visitors had never seen anything like the kapa haka performances held in the afternoon, she said.
"It was amazing, the hype, the entertainment.
"It's an awesome way to celebrate Waitangi Day. To see all the different whanau from around the world, to come here, share food with the wider community, and support everyone and enjoy the day," she said.
It was a great day for Whakatu Marae, too.
Marae representative Michael Elkington was straight up with the multicultural crowd.
"Kia-ora," he offered to guests, many who had never been on the communal grounds.
"Please be generous. If you spend money here today you are helping your local Maori community.
"I hope your bellies are empty and your wallets are full," he laughed.
Lillian and Brian Barnett of Newcastle, England, who are touring Nelson for a second straight year, said part of the reason they returned was the hospitality.
"We were really taken by how friendly the Maori people were," Mr Barnett said.
"And with this ceremony, we are seeing the real part of New Zealand. It just resounds with us."
At the powhiri, Nelson MP Dr Nick Smith said it was the largest turnout he'd ever seen at Whakatu Marae for Waitangi Day, which was "indicative of our maturing as a nation". He said Nelsonians had shown a willingness to learn about Aotearoa's history, and to look forward to a "vision of a country where two people can live in peace".
Labour list MP Maryan Street impressed Marae elders, delivering an unprepared formal speech or whaikorero in te reo Maori. "The sun is out, the food is cooking," she said, returning to English for the benefit of the mostly monolingual crowd.
"We will celebrate not only Waitangi Day and the rich cultural history of Whakatu, but as we head into Founders Heritage Park also the others that later came here to this land."
Nelson mayor Rachel Reese acknowledged everybody at the powhiri and thanked them for coming.
"Whakatu Marae is the people's marae. You have became a part of that whanau."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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