Fitness, fun and friendship has kept the Taradale Super Grans marching to their own tune for the past three decades.
The Hawke's Bay-based team of leisure marchers, including 12 former members, celebrated 30 years together at a luncheon last weekend.
Member Sheryl Eustace says the concept of leisure marching was formed in Tauranga and quickly spread throughout New Zealand.
"A meeting was called and 11 ladies immediately expressed an interest in forming a team."
Adele Wakely, who died two years ago, was approached to become the coach, the name Taradale Super Grans was chosen and the team was born.
"Adele spent 28 years of superb coaching of what has always been one of the largest teams in New Zealand.
"We believe the reason the team has lasted so long is that Adele held us together, and coupled with the camaraderie of members being so strong, many close friendships have formed and lasted over many years. She left us in the safe hands of coach Heidi MacDonald."
Practices first took place in the courtyard of Bledisloe School, later becoming affiliated to the Taradale Rugby Club, where they were based in the clubrooms and grounds. They now meet at the HB Indoor Bowls Association hall in Onekawa, where they practise every Monday.
"This gives us an under-cover all-weather facility," Sheryl says.
The team of 27 has fluctuated in numbers over the years from 21 at the beginning to 36 when the team travelled to Invercargill. Five of the original team are still marching, with eight members over 80 and one turning 91 this year.
"One of our highlights was travelling by bus to Invercargill over seven days. This memorable trip is still talked about."
During the year several teams host non-competitive display days, which the Super Grans attend as many as possible. Permanent fixtures are North and South Island days in September/October and a national meeting in March, held alternatively in the North and South Islands.
Team member Inez Rudd joined in 1994, after living with back issues.
"I watched a parade of marchers down the main street and decided that is what I would love to join, hoping the exercise would be of great benefit, which it certainly has."
Inez says several of the women had been marchers in their earlier days, including one of the original members, Rita McGarvey, who had marched for a team in Tauranga.
"I only marched in Napier around the age of 9 or 10 for a couple of years and just loved it. My biggest moment then was going to march up in Wairoa on the train."
She loves the friendship and fellowship, and learning different displays.
"Sharing time together when away on trips helps us to learn more of each other. We are such a happy group with lots of laughter and fun. Our social outings once a month has brought the team closer as there is really not a lot of time for talking at practices."
Original team member Val Mitchell joined because she needed a new interest.
"I had always been active and my family were all grown, I had only marched a very short time as I had other commitments and I remembered that I loved my time in marching."
She says the most challenge is learning the routines. Each display is around four to five minutes and can take up to a year to learn and perfect.
"Getting the plan right can depend on what's involved and where different movements are required. Naturally some pick it up quicker than others as we are all getting older and how well we remember our counts. We were the first team to march with no whistle, so every count had to be memorised. One of the highlights is when we have had a standing ovation for our efforts."
As well as fundraising for trips away, including catering, sausage sizzles, raffle and stocktaking has enabled the group to form close bonds.
"We also meet for social lunches every three or four months. We welcome new recruits who do not have to have marched before, just a good sense of the musical beat."
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