Tūrangi's annual Christmas in the Park just keeps growing and growing.
This year's promises to be the biggest yet, with two evenings of entertainment plus the traditional Christmas parade, kids' activities and food stalls.
Keep next weekend free for two big nights of festivities on the Tongariro School field. Friday December 14 from 5.30pm to 9pm is the Tu Meke Talent Show's line up of local acts, followed by a movie in the park and kai stalls. Saturday afternoon has the Santa parade followed by entertainment from headline acts Che Fu, The Beat Girls, J Geeks, hometown star Jackson Owens and more.
Tangonui Kingi of the organising committee says Christmas in the Park is seen as the premiere local event on the calendar, attracting people not just from the Tūrangi-Tongariro area but from further afield too.
This isn't the first time Christmas in the Park has stretched over two nights. Tangonui says a couple of years ago a successful movie night was held the night before the main event but it wasn't repeated last year.
This year organisers decided to revive the Friday night event with the Tu Meke Talent Show to give locals the opportunity to show off their talents. They can be anything and are not limited just to singing, dancing or other types of performing. So be bold, don't hold back or be afraid to put yourself out there — organisers want to hear from you. Entries are still open. Tangonui says there are many talented people in the area but in typical Tūrangi style, many people are too humble to put themselves forward and the show needs more numbers.
"I'm trying to dispel that thinking that these sorts of things are only for people who can do breakdancing or sing really well but anyone who watches talent shows will understand that there's about a zillion other things so it can be anything — the name of the game is community participation."
The talent show will be followed by some community-focused activities and the night wraps up with a Christmas-themed movie.
On the Saturday the programme is kicking off with the Santa parade which is running an hour earlier this year. It will start from 3pm at Turanga Pl and make its way along Ohuanga Rd and through town to Tongariro School.
Tangonui says while the final programme for Saturday is still being developed, once the parade reaches the school there will be a pōwhiri to open the event, a prizegiving for the floats, and then the entertainment will start. This year's line-up of hip hop and R'n B star Che Fu, girl group The Beat Girls and performance Māori comedy music group JGeeks will be joined by Tūrangi's own Jackson Owens, Lost Tribe Aotearoa, DJ Munz and Te Kawarito Kapa Haka.
Off -stage there will be the free children's amusements and in line with Christmas in the Park being about community, these are all free. Also expect food stalls, information, a kaumatua area and the forestry display.
Tangonui says it's difficult to get an accurate idea of how many people attend each year simply because they are so spread out but a conservative estimate of the number attending the Saturday festivities has been put at between 3500 and 4500 people and Tangonui expects that over the two nights it will add up to a significant number.
As well as providing a feel-good community event in the lead-up to Christmas, the event has economic spin-offs which are supported by council data, he says.
"While we love doing this for our whānau, for our locals, we have a massive influx of people who come because they see and hear about it and buy something to eat or stay somewhere and the data is that it has an impact on local spend."
The crowd-pleasing finale is always the fireworks at the conclusion of the night, at between 9.30pm and 10pm.
"We love to end on that note because it's a good way to go out and wish everybody well."
Organisers have put in an order for fine weather and Tangonui says people are welcome to bring beanbags and low deckchairs to make themselves comfortable, however the family-friendly event is smoke, drug and alcohol free.
He says the event could not happen without "an awesome little group" of locals who work hard to pull it together every year.
"It's a fairly well-oiled now, our event, and that's what gives us that confidence to keep on doing what we're doing."