Tent Party restores Fairfield Park's good reputation

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 07:46 17/01/2014
Fairfield Park tent party
Chris Hillock/Fairfax NZ

Jamie Dornan, left and Nas Kingi-Komene put the skate bowl to good use.

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A week on from the scene that spawned a national outcry over a drunk child and there were kids everywhere, laughing, playing and shooting hoops. Faces were painted. Teams were at war on opposite ends of a rope vying for lollies and glory. A little girl sang and brought the tent down. The three-day Free Tent Party brought the best to Fairfield skate park off Clarkin Rd yesterday.

Today, the good clean fun is on again with DJ Stretchmark and a dance-off.

Many came yesterday to get positive vibes going after a short video clip tarnished the area.

Long-time Fairfield resident Willy Beazley, 39, said seeing images of a drunk boy in his park was "gut wrenching".

He and his friends were there to show the children that they have pride in their backyard, he said.

The atmosphere was great for children, he said, but the people who need change weren't there.

"The reason they're not here? Maybe they don't know about it. Maybe they're too scared to ask for a helping hand."

What angered Beazley most about the media scramble and opinions expressed during the drunk boy drama was the phrase, "only in Fairfield".

Tent Party organiser Dennis McCaskill, 32, knows the problem isn't Fairfield's. It's in Gisborne and Levin and communities across the country with ingrained habits of alcohol abuse, violence and poverty.

His event was in the making last October and the viral video happened to appear the week prior.

But McCaskill doesn't believe in coincidence; "godincidence", he called it.

Like most Kiwis he has a history with booze. At nine years old his father left a cask of wine out and McCaskill drank till he had no legs. He developed a drinking problem in his late teens and was self-destructing until he chased a girl into a Christian prayer meeting as a 20-year-old.

"That night they stuck a video on of a preacher who caught my attention," McCaskill said.

"The preacher turned around and said: ‘You sir, the only reason you came here tonight was to get a girl' - that got my attention, but I thought it might be coincidence.

"He said: ‘You're going to come to the front and look like you want to get right with God because you want to get in the back seat of a car'. That was pretty right I thought.

"Then he said: ‘You have an alcohol problem and you haven't escaped God'."

McCaskill said he never put much stock in born-again Christian testimonies. Now he does.

He woke the next day and everything had changed.

Life was brand new. Twelve years on and he's a pastor at Authentic Church beside Fairfield skate park. He founded the church, and he's spreading the word.

But Tent Party is for the kids and to spread the love.

Those deep-rooted problems have no quick fix, he said. But he's doing his bit.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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