Paul Bates' array of novelty wands, colourful puppets, unmistakable orange and black costume and irrepressible live shows have won him many young fans -- and a prestigious entertainer's accolade.
Greytown resident Bates, known professionally as Zappo the Magician, scooped the Supreme Children's Entertainer Award at the 2015 Benny Awards, held in Auckland this month.
The awards are hosted by Variety Artists Club of Zealand, the country's premier association for performing artists and entertainers, and are decided on votes by industry peers.
Bates was presented the gong at a star-studded, black-tie event at the Crown Plaza -- and got to rub shoulders with several well-known Kiwis, including Sol3 Mio, Michele A'Court, Candy Lane and Johnny Devlin, a big thrill for the boy who learnt card tricks from his dad -- but one he "takes in [his] stride".
"I couldn't believe it: I was sitting at a table next to Candy Lane, and there was John Rolls over there on the next table. It's quite prestigious, which is nice -- it's another feather in the cap.
"It was pretty flash, but it was nice to come back to Greytown for some peace and quiet."
Bates, born in the UK but raised in Whanganui, is a third generation magician -- his paternal grandfather Fred was a children's magician in England, and his father Ken is a comedic magician and recipient of the New Zealand Grand Master of Magic Award.
After working as a flight attendant, model and fitness instructor, Bates did his first show as Zappo in 1997.
Since then, he has performed all over the lower North Island, doing gigs at shopping malls, libraries, rest homes, kids' birthday parties, and on the Interislander over summer.
"I did a show for the last sailing of the Arahura, and there were 3m high swells," he said.
"I managed to do my show, but had a queasy stomach the whole way through."
As well as magic tricks, Bates is skilled in puppetry and balloon sculpting, providing the voices for favourites such as Porky Pottamous, Kazra the alien and the Mad Chef, and presenting delighted kids with balloon versions of Queen Elsa and Spiderman.
As well as his regular shows, he is on the organising committee for the 32nd International Magic Convention in Wellington over Labour Weekend -- featuring performers from the US, UK and Korea, and workshops for close to 150 New Zealand and Australian magicians.
"It's a rollercoaster and it's tiring, but the smiles on the kids' faces are worth it. A lot of children's entertainment is about instant gratification -- press a button on computer or your iPad, and there it is.
"But you can't beat a good live show."