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Pasifika festival popular

Old Boys and Athletic Marist were fierce enemies on the field on Saturday, but off the field the two Oamaru rugby clubs joined forces to organise a Pasifika festival for the community.

The festival at Centennial Park started at noon, in the lead-up to the Citizens Shield clash between the two teams at 2.45pm. It included food stalls, music, face painting and a bouncy castle, and the Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group also held a free flu vaccination clinic.

Old Boys coach Lemi Masoe said it was an opportunity for the wider Oamaru community to have different cultural experiences, and for the clubs to celebrate their cultural diversity.

"Everyone got really stuck into it, and it was a really, really good environment," he said.

Mr Masoe came up with the idea for the festival and wanted to include Athletic Marist, because both clubs had a lot of Pasifika players in their Citizens Shield teams.

He said it was great for the younger generation to see the players come together off the field.

"The game was played in good spirits yesterday. A lot of fun, a lot of smiles — that’s what we want our kids to see."

The food stalls raised money for several different causes. Waitaki Boys’ High School was raising money for its Polyfest group, the Oamaru Fijian Community for sports gear and Old Boys collected donations for its Tongan appeal.

Volunteers at the Oamaru Fijian Community’s food stall were thrilled with the support they received at the Pasifika festival at Centennial Park in Oamaru on Saturday. All food at the various stalls had been sold before the Citizens Shield game between Athletic Marist and Old Boys started. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

All stalls had sold out of food before the game even started, and organisers received great feedback from the community, Mr Masoe said.

He thanked everyone for their support, and said the clubs hoped to make the Pasifika festival an annual event, and grow it even bigger in future years.

"I think it was a very successful day.

"It just shows there’s a lot of support around the community, which is very good. It was very pleasing."

Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group general manager Hana Halalele said 57 people got a free flu vaccination at the Pasifika festival.

Many of those who took up the opportunity came from families who might not have otherwise had the opportunity to take time off work or afford to have a vaccination, Mrs Halalele said.

"It’s about giving access to the community and looking at different ways to support overall wellbeing," she said.

Athletic Marist won the game 24-21, to secure its place in this weekend’s Citizens Shield semifinals.

Before the game started, players gathered for a moment of silence to remember former long-serving Otago Daily Times sports correspondent and broadcaster Terry O’Neill, who died on Friday.

--  rebecca.ryan@odt.co.nz

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