Packed parade for our heroes

By Sandy Myhre

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HERO WORSHIP: Blair Tuke and Peter Burling were inundated with fans wanting their autographs - and few missed out.
HERO WORSHIP: Blair Tuke and Peter Burling were inundated with fans wanting their autographs - and few missed out.

By nine o'clock yesterday morning - the day Olympic gold medallists Blair Tuke and Peter Burling were due in Kerikeri - parade organiser Dave Keen had received 27 phone calls and texts.

He had also discovered that hundreds of gold flags organised by the ANZ Bank and intended to be handed out to school children were apparently still in Auckland.

At least the weather was co-operating after a deluge the day before and he wasn't forced to make the call to cancel the parade through town and bring the official welcome for the 49er class sailors indoors.

It's fair to say he and Linda Hurley, as the two organisers of the parade, had been busy in the past week and Blair Tuke's mother, Karin, was doing some organising herself.

She bought a dozen gold medals from a shop to give to the kids from the Learn to Sail programme at the Kerikeri Cruising Club - Blair Tuke's old sailing alma mater - who were walking in the parade.

By midday the VWs destined to carry the stars had arrived from Whangarei and were joined by a police car, Dereck Mackay as the lone man on bagpipes leading the parade, a hip-hop dance troupe, the army cadets as flag-bearers and the sailing kids gathering at Woodlands Motel ready for kick-off.

The occasion was destined to bring the small Far North town to a standstill for the first time in, well, the four years since Tuke and Burling won a silver medal at the London Olympics in 2012.

First, though, Tuke and Burling crossed the road to greet the residents of a retirement village who had gathered out front especially. It spoke volumes about two of New Zealand's most successful sportsmen.

From the beginning of the parade a number of close connections cropped up.

The driver of one of the VW Amaroks was Bruno Goncalves who is Brazilian and into his car climbed Jesse and Dan Tuke, two of Blair's three brothers. They had just flown in that morning on a long-haul flight of 32 hours from Rio de Janeiro to Santiago and on to Auckland before driving three or so hours north to Kerikeri to be at the parade.

Northern Advocate photographer John Stone joined the parade and captured these images of the celebrations.

- Northern Advocate

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