Fathers' Day on September 1 dawned bright and dry - an emphatic "spring is here" kind of day! Perfect for the annual Barnardos Dads' Day held here at Kiwi North.
Family-oriented events such as this is when the large Kiwi North facility really comes into its own.
This particular day is very special thanks to funding from the Whangārei District Council community grants, Barnardos is able to offer the gift of a huge annual day out for the entire family without the barrier of cost.
The original mission of this event, and still really relevant, is to encourage positive engagement between dads and their children.
Kiwi North is proud to play a part in this very special day by donating the venue and giving free access to the Museum and Kiwi House.
This year with social media humming and a fine week leading up to a magnificent first day of spring, the Kiwi North staff and Barnardos volunteers welcomed an estimated 3000 people to the park.
That adds up to a mind-boggling number of train and tractor rides, 1600 sausages, amazing Sparkle Fairies painted faces everywhere, crowds in the museum and many little faces and sticky fingers pressed up against the glass to see Raukura and Zephyr the Kiwi, Flash the tuatara and little Pounamu and the other gecko.
There were lots of first time experiences and smiles in their multitudes. People waited patiently in queues for a roaring ride around the mini train track with the Whangārei Model Engineers Club and Whangārei Steam and Model Train Club on the big train run through the beautiful Millington Bush and a rattle-and-shake ride on the Vintage Machinery Club's tractor and hay trailer.
The Whangārei Stationary Engine Club was open with its bewildering array on engines of all sizes and capacities, and many enjoyed a visit to the Rock and Mineral Club.
This year the mobile library was able to join in the fun, a very welcome addition to the event day activities.
Once again Shirley and James Warner-Summers came with mini horses, Dreena and Basil taking turns to pull the little cart. Shirley and James have been bringing their horses to Kiwi North for many, many years and for some children this may be the first time they get to interact with a horse in any way.
There were many extended family groups here and it is a joy to see multi-generational family groups enjoying a day together.
A highlight was meeting families very new to the area, one in particular from Dubai and another from Peru. They were taking the opportunity to explore their new home and it was a fabulous event to welcome them here. As the diversity of our community grows so will the richness and creativity of our culture.
As the home of the Whangārei Museum, Heritage Park and Northland's only Kiwi House with a variety of living taonga in residence, Kiwi North is known by most as a place where treasures are stored and displayed.
But it is much more than that.
Events such as Dads' Day, the Teddy Bears Picnic, Medieval Madness, Story Book Easter Sunday, Crank Up Day and others highlight Kiwi North's important role as a community facility.
The governing body, the Whangārei Museum and Heritage Trust, is kaitiaki of this 62 acre site and all it contains, on behalf of the community of the Whangārei district for now and in perpetuity.
So as the days grow longer and warmer Kiwi North is preparing not only for the influx of international visitors that flows into Northland with the summer, but also many more days such as this where the families of our community get to come and play, or simply stretch their legs and relax.
How many of them realise that when those children they bring become parents this place will still be here for that next generation and for those to follow.
There are generations of smiles and fun still to come.
• Allie Fry is director operations at Whangārei Museum at Kiwi North.