Buoyed by the centenary commemorations, a record crowd close to 10,000 people marched at the break of dawn in central Whangarei to say, "We will remember them".

There were more than 1000 students, youth and scout groups among the crowd at the Anzac Day dawn service, which was performed for the first time at the new cenotaph at Laurie Hall Park on Saturday.

Flag bearers at the Whangarei dawn parade.
Flag bearers at the Whangarei dawn parade.

The day began with the falling in of the parade on Rust Ave, before the dawn service and the formal ceremony finished by 6.45am - people then flocked to view the names on the cenotaph and pen tributes.

A growing awareness in schools about Anzac Day commemorations saw students, armed with flicker candles supplied to them by the Whangarei RSA, getting just as enthusiastic about the occasion as their parents.

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South African immigrant Shan Naidu was impressed at the number of people pouring into Laurie Hall Park.

Holly Edmeades, 14, of the Air Training Corps, stands guard at the cenotaph on Saturday morning.
Holly Edmeades, 14, of the Air Training Corps, stands guard at the cenotaph on Saturday morning.

The 75-year-old has lived in Whangarei for 15 years but had never mustered the courage to get up early and be part of the dawn service.

"This year I felt like coming after hearing so much about Anzac Day and its importance, but I had no idea at the numbers that would turn up. There's definitely good support for the occasion.

"It seems 80 to 90 per cent of Whangarei people are here. It's a very special day and I'd like to stay for the entire ceremony."

Thai Nuch Palmer also came along with her Kiwi husband Ian and their children, Chloe, 5, and Thomas, 3.

It was her first dawn service - parental duty in previous years stopped her from taking part. "My husband said this year is the 100th so it's special and it's good to see kids coming along," she said.

"Apparently Anzac Day is big for Kiwis and for those like me who don't come every year - you know the significance of the occasion but you don't think too much about it."

Another family, Nicki Spence and her children Blake, 7, and Alexandra, 4, lined Rust Ave before the parade fell in.

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They have attended the dawn service on and off for about eight years.

Ms Spence's grandfather, Thomas Kane, was a woodturner who volunteered to serve in WWI with the Scottish troops.

"For me, Anzac Day is about honouring all servicemen, not just those who went to Gallipoli," she said.

Chairman of the Whangarei RSA Trust, Archie Dixon, last week predicted crowd numbers would be between 6000 and 7000 - on Saturday he felt close to 10,000 people attended the dawn service.

"It's quite an emotional experience and we knew there was a wide understanding of the centenary commemorations because of recent publicity."