Te Puke in the pink for hometown MasterChef stars

By Amy McGillivray

MasterChef winners Karena (left) and Kasey Bird were thrilled with the crowd that turned out to see them on the tour of Te Puke organised by Di Leach
MasterChef winners Karena (left) and Kasey Bird were thrilled with the crowd that turned out to see them on the tour of Te Puke organised by Di Leach

Te Puke was decked out in pink as locals came out in force to congratulate MasterChef winners Kasey and Karena Bird.

Pink balloons were strung up and down the centre of the main road and pink streamers were wrapped around trees and bollards yesterday.

A crowd of men and women, all adorned in pink, lined the street outside the Te Puke library as they waited for the duo to arrive.

Pink sunglasses, leis, T-shirts, skirts and even a pink beard were sported by about 40 people who crowded into the library to congratulate the Maketu locals and get a photo with the pair.

Western Bay of Plenty deputy mayor Gwenda Merriman congratulated the former Te Puke Intermediate and high school students.

"These young people are capable, confident young ambassadors and you can feel very proud of them," Ms Merriman said.

The pair said the turnout was overwhelming and Karena was quick to point out her sister's tears as she tried to thank the community for their support.

"She never cries either so this is big," Karena said.

Seeing the town decorated with pink and the people lining the streets as they arrived was "incredible", Kasey told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend.

Karena said they had been preparing themselves for the public reaction in the six months since filming finished and were ready to share it with everyone.

"We were ready but we weren't expecting this," she said.

The overwhelming response meant there were plenty of tears shed by both sisters throughout the day, Karena said.

The sisters were welcomed to Maketu Primary, their old school, with a haka yesterday morning and were looking forward to visiting Te Puke intermediate and high schools in the afternoon.

Te Puke resident Audrey Baldwin was an avid follower of the show and presented the girls with a painting of two pink birds that she had glued to a ruler.

"I thought they deserve something. It's a lot of fun," she said. "They are going to be wonderful ambassadors. I'm so proud of them."

Organiser Di Leach said they had a fantastic response at each stop during the day.

"It's just awesome. It makes everything worthwhile. The girls are truly delighted with it," she said. "There were people all around the streets."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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