For the pupils of eight local primary schools the Hawke's Bay Festival of Hockey which starts next Saturday will become a fun and colourful way to learn about the game and the places the visiting international teams come from.

As part of the focus of getting the Bay community more closely engaged with the event, eight schools were chosen to each forge a "partnership" with the one of the eight big teams competing for the Hawke's Bay Cup as part of the third annual festival, which is being staged at the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park in Hastings.

"It's great to get the youngsters involved," events co-ordinator Rachel Dame said.

"It helps build up a good rapport with the communities as parents and others will become involved as well."


As part of the partnership each school has been given a large sheet for the children to design and create a banner on - a banner of support for "their team".

The finished works will be unveiled and hung out proudly on the fourth day of the festival, Tuesday, April 4. "And we will have some prizes for them," Ms Dame said.

Each school will also be given 50 free tickets for Tuesday's matches, which will culminate with the New Zealand Black Sticks taking on Ireland in the evening.

"We are also working to ensure the schools also have interaction with their teams in some way."

Already confirmed will be a visit by the Irish players to their partnership school, Lucknow Primary in Havelock North.

"It's a bit of a different approach for us and it's about engaging the students," Ms Dame said.

The schools and their teams are Te Mata School and Canada, Onekawa School and Australia, Lucknow School and Ireland, Arthur Miller School and India, Taradale Primary and Korea, Frimley School and China, Parkvale School and Japan and Nelson Park School and the New Zealand Black Sticks.

For the children of Nelson Park School, teaming up with the national side was an exciting thing, principal Sue Bewley said.

"It's great we are supporting them and yes, the children will be making plenty of noise," she said.

There was a strong hockey feel to the school, as for the past three years it had played host to Sport Hawke's Bay's hockey skills programme.

"It's great because as well as getting a taste for the game the schools get to learn about the different cultures of their countries," Ms Dame said.

Another couple of special partnerships had also been formed. The Rose and Shamrock Village Inn in Havelock North has partnered with the Irish team while the Maina Cafe also in Havelock North has linked in with the Canadian side.