The organiser of the Bay of Islands Music Festival hopes to build the event up into an eclectic, one-of-a-kind concert drawing music fans from around the country.

About 3500 people turned out for Saturday's festival at the sportsfields opposite the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

It was the festival's third year and the second time on the current site. The inaugural event was held at the nearby Copthorne Hotel.

This year's line-up was a departure from the usual reggae theme with an unusually wide mix of genres from Pacific reggae to hard rock.

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The festival was headlined by Jamaican reggae star Shaggy with other acts including Australian rockers Wolfmother, Kiwi legends Shihad, the Black Seeds, Ladi6 and Whangārei band Otium.

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George ''Fiji'' Veikoso, a last-minute ring-in for Toots and the Maytals, provided the most spine-tingling moment when he performed a cover of Herbs' te reo classic E Papa, accompanied by a few thousand people in the audience.

Promoter Jackie Sanders said she had hoped for 5000 people but was still pleased with the turnout and the way the audience had embraced the broad range of genres.

''I was interested to see if it would work but judging by the reactions everyone enjoyed themselves,'' she said.

''There are already reggae festivals around the country but I wanted to create something unique and cater to the wide demographics in Northland. Hopefully we can build it up over time so it becomes a nationally significant event.''

The festival would ''definitely'' be back next year, she said.

The artists had also enjoyed themselves and had promised to spread the word to other musicians.

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For this year's festival she had spent much more on the stage, lighting, a big screen and special effects such as gas jets.

While the end result was a success Sanders said the preceding weeks had been incredibly stressful.

Originally it was to have been a two-day festival with reggae on Saturday and rock on Sunday, but slow tickets sales for Sunday's show forced her to condense the event into a single day.

Then, with just a week to go, Toots and the Maytals — one of the biggest drawcards — cancelled for health reasons.

Sanders said people didn't realise the months of planning and logistics that went into a major event.

About 150 people, many of them volunteers, worked at the festival including youth from the Mai Lyfe group who helped set up, clean up and pack down the venue.

She was also grateful to the Waitangi National Trust for making the venue available.

Trust chief executive Greg McManus said he was pleased with how the event had worked out and was looking forward to hosting more in future.

Saturday was one of the hottest days in Northland so far this year, forcing festival goers to seek out shade, water and spray bottles to keep cool. In typically colourful fashion, MC Luke Bird put it like this: "I'm sweating like a hooker in church".


Aussie bushfires behind Toots' no-show

Jamaican reggae legends Toots and the Maytals canned their Australasian tour on doctor's advice that smoke from bushfires could have harmed the frontman's health.

Frederick ''Toots'' Hibbert, 77, was one of the big drawcards at the Bay of Islands Music Festival in Waitangi but pulled out with a week's notice for health reasons.

Festival promoter Jackie Sanders said Toots' doctor had advised him not to travel to Australia because smoke and air pollution from the bushfires could have harmed his lungs.

The singer's two New Zealand shows, at Waitangi and Tauranga's One Love Festival, were part of a seven-show Australasian tour so they couldn't go ahead either.

''There was nothing we could do, but we did find another international act, George 'Fiji' Veikoso. It was a logistical nightmare to change the flights and accommodation with a week's notice but we made it happen with staff sometimes working through the night.''

Another ageing reggae legend, Jimmy Cliff, almost missed the inaugural Bay of Islands Music Festival in 2018 when his flight from the Gold Coast was delayed, which meant he and the band missed their flight to Kerikeri.

Sanders scrambled to organise alternative transport from Auckland with Cliff still on the road at 9pm when his set was supposed to start. He made it to Waitangi at 9.30pm in time to play a shortened set.