It wasn't the biggest parade ever seen in Northland but it was almost certainly the loudest and the proudest.
On Sunday the people of Ōtiria, just west of Moerewa, lined the main street to cheer their ''boys'' for bringing home the Bay of Islands Rugby Union Championship shield for the first time in 59 years.
Ōtiria Rugby Club's win in last month's final could not have come at a better time for the township, which has been hard hit this year by Covid, tragedies and floods.
Sunday's parade featured close to 50 vehicles led by a Cadillac convertible, dozens of dirt bikes, a dump truck and trailer carrying the players, improvised floats, lots of kids with plastic trumpets, a couple of horses, three bulldogs and a miniature pony named Kevin.
Ōtiria Rd residents decorated their fences in the team colours of blue and white. Ngawati Edwards nailed a broom to his gate to symbolise the team's clean sweep.
The parade was spread out along a 2km route allowing people to be safely spread out while numbers during the medal presentation ceremony at the club grounds were limited to meet Covid restrictions.
Spectators were kept in separate zones with fewer than 100 people in each and sanitising stations were dotted around the grounds.
The club's sole surviving life member, Barry Mills, was a guest of honour. The 78-year-old captained the club in the 1960s and led the building of the current field and clubrooms.
''I just feel so proud of them,'' he said.
''Moerewa has been down in the dumps for the last few years, this is something that will really lift them.''
Northland Rugby Union chief executive Cameron Bell praised the club's spirit and ''massive, massive character'' in coming back from defeats and adversity, and said clubs like Ōtiria were the future of the game.
Parade organiser Pamela-Anne Ngohe-Simon was — unusually — almost lost for words afterwards, saying she had been overwhelmed by the community's aroha and wairua.
''We wanted to recognise the boys for bringing the trophy back for the first time in 59 years. It's brought the community together, picked them up, and given them drive to take on the future.''
Prizes were awarded for the best-dressed fence, bike and spectators. The best-dressed man title went to forward Rei Tamehana whose rugby uniform — except for his shorts, fortunately — turned out to be painted on.
The Bay of Islands final was played in Ōhaeawai on August 22. The full-time score was Otiria 31, Taiamai-Ōhaeawai 26.