The Bayfair Festival of Disability Sport powered by Parafed is set to showcase disabled sport like never before in the Bay of Plenty.
A two-day festival on March 24-25 will feature wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball, boccia and blind sports competitions at the ASB Arena. Athletes from all over New Zealand are involved.
A dinner and awards event is set for the evening of March 24 with ACC and Paralympics NZ Open Day to follow on Sunday.
Parafed ambassador and board member Amanda Lowry is excited about the first two-day festival of its kind in the region.
"It is just having this amazing space where all of the disabled community come together and we compete and have fun. It's all about us really.
"The disabled community maybe like other sports communities are all quite isolated so we don't tend to come together in a big group to showcase our sports. They are public but no one really knows about what we do, so this way we are bringing four sports together in one venue."
Lowry, who plays wheelchair rugby, is predicting two days of fun and entertainment. She describes wheelchair rugby as "violent chess".
"It is going to be dynamic and it is going to be noisy and there is going to be a tonne of people. There is nothing lightweight about it. It is aggressive and competitive and is as exciting as any sport you will watch.
"It will lift the profile of sports for us and this is what we need. We need the community to see what we do and if there are other connections and people out there who could benefit from joining one of our codes then they know who to talk to."
The four sports being showcased at this inaugural festival are pathway sports to Paralympics so the match with ACC and Paralympics on the Sunday of the festival is the ideal mix, Lowry said.
"It makes a whole lot of sense for all of us to get together and look at those grassroots networks again because I think that has been missing a bit for the high-performance level of sport. All of that skill comes from our local communities so if the young people can see what opportunities are there that's when they know there is a future for them in Para sport."
Lowry was injured in a surfing accident off Tay St five years ago. She says she had no idea how much pleasure being involved in disabled sport would bring her.
"It really helped me in my rehab and in my journey. I get to roll into a sporting venue in a chair and you buggers with the legs are the odd ones out. My family get to see other mums and dads with kids who live in chairs and we get to make a new normal.
"We see this festival as an adult version of AIMS Games. We are going to grow and it is going to build every year with new sports. We are hoping it is going to reach Australasia and this is the first of many."
Festival organiser Angela Wallace says support of the local business community has made the festival possible.
"We are so grateful to the founding partners of this event. We had a bunch of sponsors that absolutely jumped on. This was a big idea and a bit of a scary idea as it was big vision. We had the likes of Bayfair, Carrus Corporation, Legacy Trust and the McFall family jump on board and say this is a great idea.
"It gave everybody the confidence to think big. There is nothing holding us back from putting on the best festival ever. There is a real heart around the whole event. You just couldn't ask for better."