Marching girls are as 'kiwiana' as pavlova, and they still are in Hawke's Bay - although the marchers are not always girls.

When Kellie Fulton was growing up, competitive marching was "really big". There was even a New Zealand television series based on a marching team.

"We must have had at least maybe 12 teams here in Hawke's Bay," she said. "There would have been probably about five clubs and it is only two clubs here in Hawke's Bay now. Six teams here in the Bay and that's it."

The coach of the Burlington Marching Under-16 Team, she said the emphasis on major sporting codes is to blame.

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"It's not advertised the same as netball and rugby and soccer. It is not part of the school curriculum - I think it just comes down to that. It is very sad to see.

"Children at school are hassled for marching because it's not cool."

She said the marchers soon become a family.

"You spend lots of time together, you make new friends, you travel."

Her mum, Jennie MacDonald helps run the three Burlington Marching teams.

"It is a very disciplined sport and not all children will handle that," MacDonald said.

"It is also a lot of fun and they like meeting new people and they like travelling and the medals and awards that go along with it.

"They get to dance and jump around and make up the moves. And in the display part the girls actually made a lot of those moves themselves."

Recreational marching for girls was introduced to New Zealand and Australia in the 1930s to keep them fit and active.

In Australia it has morphed into drill dancing, which has some of the traditional moves, along with Vegas-style razzle dazzle.

But in New Zealand, despite generations of competitive marchers still active, competitive marching is in serious decline.

Marching Grannies

But it's not all bad news. Non-competitive leisure marching, aimed at people over-50 is growing.

The Taradale Super Grans are one of the biggest teams in the country, fielding 24 marchers.

Val Mitchell is one of several in their 80s at the Napier club. She said a large part of their success was having the same coach for 26 years, Adele Wakely, also in her 80s.

"She is very strict - you've got to be there on time. She keeps us on our toes," Mitchell said.

"We do very well really, we are always pleased with ourselves. We had a couple of years where we boo-booed it up, but most of the time we are pleased with ourselves."

The Super Grans took part in the Dannevirke Christmas Parade last month, before taking part in a North Island Display Day with 17 teams from the Lower North Island, hosted by the Ruahine Ramblerz.

Ramblerz president Pam Bassett said increased awareness of fitness was partly the reason for the growth of Leisure Marching, which has as its motto: Fun, friendship and fitness.

Tararua mayor Tracey Collis said the Ramblerz had "put marching back on the map".