In the heart of Ruatoria, Whakarua Park underwent a spectacular transformation into a haven of joy and camaraderie on the 24th of January 2024, as the community enthusiastically converged for the extraordinary event, Crack Ups and Kai.
Co-ordinated by myself in collaboration with local agribusiness Taiao Connect, the event served as more than just a day of celebration; it was a powerful reflection of the community’s resilience and unity after navigating a challenging year.
In the wake of adverse weather events and other difficulties, the community faced a collective year of trials. Crack Ups and Kai emerged as a beacon of hope, providing a platform to overcome the impact of the past and embrace the warmth of community, laughter, and shared experiences.
The event embodied the indomitable strength of the Ruatoria community, symbolizing a positive shift and a collective stride towards brighter days.
With over 200 attendees, the youthful energy of tamariki permeated the grassy expanse of Whakarua Park, creating a vibrant mosaic against the resonating laughter that filled the air. Engaging in an array of activities such as bubble soccer, navigating a bouncy castle obstacle course, rippa rugby and slip-and-slide escapades, the community revelled in the spirit of playfulness and shared enjoyment. The exceptional team at Sport Gisborne Tairāwhiti orchestrated the sports entertainment, while Paora Brooking from the Ruatoria Volunteer Fire Brigade ensured that the slip-and-slide remained a source of endless delight for the children.
The event, generously free of charge, extended a warm invitation to all members of the community to partake in the festivities, fostering an inclusive environment that underscored the profound notion that in Ruatoria, everyone has a place at the communal table.
Ensuring sustenance for both body and spirit, attendees were treated to an array of food, drinks, and delightful snow cones. The culinary offerings included delectable burgers and locally sourced venison sausages, expertly curated by Joe Hutley and his team at Spitfire Catering, further enriching the communal experience.
At the epicentre of this jubilant affair stood renowned comedian Joe Daymond, a national luminary with an international footprint. Celebrated for his viral online skits, successful filmmaking ventures, and inspirational speaking engagements, Joe’s participation in Crack Ups and Kai introduced an exceptional blend of entertainment interwoven with motivational depth.
His personal journey, transitioning from an aspiring property developer to a triumphant comedian, resonated as a compelling narrative of resilience and the courage to embrace new challenges.
His words reverberated through the park, encouraging attendees to navigate their own crossroads and confront the uncertainties of life with fortitude. His TV production company, West Park, stood as an enduring testament to creativity and the inherent potential for success, even in the face of adversity.
A personalised message from Farmstrong advocate Sam Whitelock acknowledging the trails the east coast community had faced hit home for attendees, adding a poignant touch to the event.
Behind the scenes, the organisers of the event quietly extended a helping hand to those affected by severe weather events on the east coast in 2023.
Crack Ups and Kai transcended the temporal boundaries of a one-day celebration; it metamorphosed into an ongoing commitment to community wellbeing. The event sought not only to create positive memories but also to forge indelible bonds within the community, underscoring the inherent strength derived from a spirit of togetherness.
Crack Ups and Kai transcended the realm of a mere event; it became a poignant reflection of the indomitable spirit inherent to the Ruatoria community. As laughter echoed through Whakarua Park, it became evident that this gathering represented a collective exhale after a trying year. The legacy of the event extends far beyond a single day, serving as a profound testament to the strength, resilience, and unwavering sense of community that define Ruatoria. Crack Ups and Kai encapsulated a celebration of the journey, an ode to shared experiences, and a promise of brighter days ahead.
Acknowledgment must go to all those that contributed to the fun day, including the Ministry for Primary Industries North Island Severe Weather Events Fund, Taiao Connect, Ngāti Porou Hauora, Radio Ngāti Porou, Sports Tairāwhiti, Farmstrong, FMG and all volunteers. Their dedication and support were instrumental in making this day a resounding success, embodying the true spirit of community collaboration.