For the first time in nearly 50 years, Polyfest will go ahead without crowds and go digital.
With the Omicron outbreak hitting its peak, the world's largest annual Māori and Pacific Islands festival has taken centre stage online and will be livestreamed.
Event director Seiuli Terri Leo-Mau'u told the Herald it was a hard decision, but after schools and sponsors, everyone's health and safety took priority.
"There will be no live audience, no sponsor activations or stalls at the venue," she said.
"It was a hard decision, but it was necessary."
It's the 47th celebration of Polyfest, and up to 55 groups are involved today from 26 schools.
"Usually we'd have about 75 schools," Leo-Mau'u adds.
The festival has had disruptions since 2019 which saw two cancellations. The first was to ensure the safety of ethnic communities after the Christchurch terrorist attacks.
The annual event would usually hold hundreds of participants, and tens of thousands of festival goers. But with Covid-19 at our shores, Polyfest was cancelled again in 2020, but came back strong in 2021.
This year didn't bring the same luck, but Leo-Mau'u said the enthusiastic spirit of Polyfest remained.
The event is held at Manukau Sports Bowl, with schools scheduled at different times and safety precautions. Students from different schools arrive on buses, perform in front of the judges, and then leave.
The number of stages has been reduced to three this year, down from six last year, due to fewer participating schools due to the outbreak.
"The kids are definitely devastated I can say that for sure," Leo-Mau'u told the Herald.
"It shows how much it means to them. We were able to hold Polyfest in 2021 but we had fewer stages than we normally would.
"We're hoping to return to the six stages next year but for now, our students are still hyped up and excited to get on the stage."
Up first is the diversity stage. St Cuthbert's College and their Vietnamese group showcase colour, elegance and grace.
The group said they faced many challenges as a result of Covid, but were excited to make it to Polyfest.
The diversity stage is for cultures who do not fall under the main islands, a chance for Asian and ethnic minorities to show off their unique cultures.
Performances will include: Tahitian, Fijian, Hawaiian, Tuvaluan, African, Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Japanese, Kiribati, Korean, Sri Lankan, Thai, Tibetan, and Vietnamese groups.
Baradene's Filipino group featured "big costumes, big fans, big headpieces, lots of colours," as described by the group, complemented with big music which was put together by their leader.
"We love the opportunity to offer our culture to others and experience and embrace different cultures at Polyfest too," Jodi Orias said.
Māori and Pasifika performances kick off on Thursday.
Traditionally, the crowds would begin to pile in on Friday and Saturday for Māori, Samoan and Tongan stages - the biggest crowds.
Over the next four days, students will compete in speech, song and dance on the Māori, Cook Islands, Niue, Samoan, Tongan, and the Diversity stage.
"I'm excited for the kids, to finally walk across the stage. To validate all the hard work and effort. This is all for them."