It may come across as cheesy to some, but for Rachel Dame "Hawke's Bay is a slice of heaven".

"In the States it's very much all go, go, go," says the 23-year-old American who has been a Hawke's Bay Festival of Hockey event co-ordinator since January.

Dame, who flats in Havelock North, last month eased into the festival role in a sole capacity after most-capped women's Black Sticks player, Emily Gaddum (nee Naylor), joined the national squad to compete in the eight-nation HB Cup that starts tomorrow.

"You know, Hawke's Bay is the sort of place you don't want people to know about in case too many of them turn up there," says the North Carolina native who hails from the city of Winston-Salem which at last count in 2013 had a population of 236,441. However, Dame, who arrived in New Zealand after a five-month sojourn via Los Angeles, which is teeming with 3.8 million inhabitants, relishes the Bay's serene offerings of a leisurely walk up Te Mata Peak to take in panoramic views before grabbing a quick lunch in the village.


"It's not just the beautiful scenery, but also the people that's struck me most.

"Over here I get a 'Hi Rachel', from people who know me in a grocery shop so it's something you don't get in the big city."

The willingness of the community to help someone resonates with her and renews her faith in humanity.

"When I came here, I had no mattress so I was at a coffee shop the other day and someone just gave me one. I can tell you that just doesn't happen in the States."

Dame arrived in New Zealand late last November to travel along the length of the country before her parents arrived from the US to sightsee and spend Christmas. Her father, Bucky Dame, runs a coliseum and had met Bay events guru Bruce Mactaggart who was launching the live touring show, Walking With Dinosaurs, in North America, based on a BBC documentary.

"Dad knew Bruce very well so I sent my CV over and Bruce interviewed me for the job," she says of the hockey festival job.

Dame, who has been involved in helping with co-ordinating the Farmlands Horse of the Year and the Big Easy, has an impressive resume, including international contracts with the US Olympic Committee in Colorado and the California Special Olympics during the World Games.

She always had an inexplicable desire to gravitate towards smaller regions and New Zealand struck a chord.

"I have never been out of the US before so this is my first time overseas." She has a permit that will enable her to live in New Zealand for a year so she's in the hunt for a job. The ski season in the South Island over winter beckons for someone who finds "it easy to transition and enjoy a relaxed lifestyle".

"I'll go anywhere but Invercargill. It was raining there and it wasn't what I expected," she says with a laugh.