A Santa Parade full of superheroes enthralled thousands of children who turned out in record numbers at Papamoa yesterday.
An estimated 15,000 people lined the route of the parade that finished with the biggest hero of them all, Santa, waving and delivering the occasional high five from the back of a sparkling red convertible.
The superhero-themed parade easily beat last year's 10,000 attendance, with Papamoa Coast Kindergarten judged the best overall float.
One of those enjoying the occasion, Allan Merrett, was impressed by the turnout of families. He has noticed a big influx of professional couples with children coming to live in Papamoa in the past couple of years, with everyone making an effort to get involved in the community.
"The parade reflected that."
Ange Riddell of Papamoa said the parade was really good, with the colourful floats a nice representation of Papamoa's community groups and businesses.
"It has a good community feeling."
Another woman who asked not to be named felt there was a little bit too much advertising although it was good to see that some people had made an effort with their floats.
Sarah Neale of Welcome Bay said the parade was very entertaining, with loads of people taking part.
The parade ran for nearly a kilometre ending outside Papamoa Plaza, with centre manager David Hill saying it was "head and shoulders" bigger than last year's event.
Piggy-backing on the parade was the low-key official opening of the shopping centre's new food court.
The ribbon-cutting was carried out by Nga Potiki representative Colin Reeder, plaza owner Steve Baigent, Mayor Greg Brownless and Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller. But speeches were definitely not on the agenda, just cutting a massive cake.
"It's all about a celebration of the community," Mr Hill said.
The food court, which had been trading for a month before yesterday's official opening, had lifted overall turnover in the plaza by at least 20 per cent.
"Retailers are trading well above targets," he said.
Another four shops were due to open next year in Papamoa Plaza
Mount/Papamoa Ward councillor Leanne Brown, who helped judge the floats, said the quality was better, with a lot of effort and enthusiasm.
"The judging was really tough, particularly the educational sector. It shows what the spirit of Papamoa's community is like."
However, she remained a little disappointed with some of the business entries which were little more than children waving from inside a company car.
Ms Brown was impressed with the mix of demographics in the crowd, with children, parents and grandparents all attending.
The parade was headed by a big group of motorcycle enthusiasts riding their machines at various levels of noisiness followed by a Latin American-styled percussion ensemble and then a Pak'n Save Papamoa float in which lollies were handed out or carefully scattered among the people lining the side of the road.
Floats resembling Batman's batmobile included Karate Papamoa and Barrett Homes. Papamoa Beach Resort's float included Bruce Crosby trying to look inconspicuous as Superman.
A lot of effort went into the Current Christians' float which featured the Christmas nativity scene, headlined, "the original superhero family". Tauranga Samba did a neat twist on the superhero theme, with members representing New Zealand's Olympic heroes.
Showers stayed away for the parade, with dust kicked up by strong winds across unsealed areas beside Papamoa Plaza the only weather-related issue. Dust clouds could be seen further down Papamoa East.
Papamoa Santa Parade winners
Best non-profit float: Current Christians
Best business/commercial float: Papamoa Beach Resort
Best sports/social club float: Papamoa Karate
Best educational sector float: Porse
Best overall float: Papamoa Coast Kindergarten