The appetiser to the "Big Game" in town is over. Now rugby fans are heading to Toll Stadium for the entree - the British and Irish Lions clash with the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians.
Hundreds thronged the Laneway on Cameron St this afternoon for a feed and plenty of on-stage as well as off-stage entertainment as The Late Lunch provided an ideal build-up for tonight's game.
Bars such as Dickens Inn were packed to the gunnels with a mixture of Lions and Baa-Baas' fans while those that set up temporary beer and food stalls made good business as well.
MC Luke Bird kicked off the entertainment on stage at 2pm and among the performers were the Northcal Pipe Band, highland dancers from the Lothian Highland and National Dance Studio in Whangarei, and the Hatea Kapa Haka group.
Lions' fans Alan Wilkins and sons Percy and Tarquin from Nottingham in England were surprised to learn about free designated parking for campervans on Hatea Dr.
"Everybody has been so friendly and welcoming. It's a tremendous local community. We didn't expect this party in town ... just makes you so welcoming," Alan Wilkins said.
"At another level, it shows how rugby can bring the common spirit among people. Teams can be very competitive on the field, but off the field they can come together and enjoy the occasion."
For Northern Irish couple Alan and Lorna Winter, the late lunch was well-organised and brought people from all walks of life and countries together.
They are part of the Rugby Travel Ireland group of 35 Lions' fans who will travel in a coach to all 10 games in the series.
"People of Whangarei are so friendly. We can't speak highly enough of them. We went to the Town Basin this morning and straight to the game after the party in town. The atmosphere is fabulous," Mr Winter said.
Kerikeri dentist Mark Jones was in town too and couldn't help but marvel at the long list of entertainment and food choices for all ages.
"Great atmosphere. They should have this more often as it makes the community a bit more attractive," he said.
Wahi Restaurant set up a food stall opposite Shirley's Photo Centre and the pulled lamb shoulder and half-shell oysters were a hit with food lovers.
"It's been really busy. We started getting people even before we set up. The pulled lamb shoulder is very popular," Wahi employee Ebony Peeni said.