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Meet and Greet Evening

Speech for Meet and Greet evening, 14th April 2023

Tena koutou, Tena Koutou, Tena Koutou

Ko Meri Gibson taku ingoa, ko kaiwhakahaere International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission. Ko Kaiwhakahaere Aotearoa Wahine Toa Ora Trust.

Nor reira kia Ora hui hui my tatou.

Oh, my goodness how wonderful to see you all here tonight.

The purpose of this evening is to give you the opportunity to mix and mingle, to catch up with old friends, make new friends, create memories.

The formalities will begin tomorrow with the Congress, then the street parade and the opening ceremony, followed by two days of racing. Tonight, is about you having fun, but I did want to give you a few little insights into what it has been like these last 4 years.

I would never have believed that when I placed the bid for this festival and we won it for New Zealand that we would be hit by a pandemic as soon as we opened registrations. This is where I need to thank Nicola Greenwell from Hamilton/Waikato Tourism. Without her knowledge, guidance and support the bid would not have been half of what it was. Thank you, Nicola.

** Present flowers to Nicola.

** Thank you to Hamilton City Council, H3 Claudelands and Mayor Paula Southgate for the venue sponsorship and venue hire.

The bids for these festivals must represent a team and my team, Abreast of Life is based in Christchurch, therefore I knew it would always be a logistical nightmare to work out of town and to try and balance everything that needed to happen for such an event as this.

What I did know without even thinking about, was that there was only one person I would approach to be the Chair of the festival organising committee, and that person is Deb Stevenson. I have worked with Deb over several years on the New Zealand Dragonboat Association national championships, I knew that her abilities were par excellence and that I would not have to question any decision she made.

We added to those the other two members of the organising committee for the New Zealand nationals, Andrew Watson, and Brooke Hargreaves. I know that you have had an incredible number of dealings with both Deb and Andrew. And now Brooke at marshalling on training days. You will see plenty of Brooke on the race days.

Just for the record I wanted to tell you how many emails I have personally fielded. Part of my goal in having such a great committee in place was to mitigate all those emails. It soon became apparent that as everyone has full time jobs, that I had to take pressure off them. I have had 8500 emails across 17 folders dealing with various inquiries, contractors, teams, legal, financial etc and it is still going on. I cannot for one second imagine how many emails Deb and Andrew have had, Andrew regarding the registrations and Deb with just every general inquiry.

Not only that we have packed, when I say we, it is a very literal we, because the work was done by Deb’s teammates at Busting with Life. A huge thank you ladies for that. They packed up 23,500 items into goody bags in addition to that we have 25,000 items of merchandise, 2350 T shirts and 2350 programme booklets. That is a lot of storage and a lot of headaches to get your mind around and Deb has managed all of that brilliantly, not to mention the logistical nightmare of the transport. Transport routes and costs is the one thing that about sends each of these festivals broke. However, we are happy to make a massive contribution to the Hamilton economy.

Obviously, there will be a lot more thank yous to make at the closing ceremony but I wanted to include those at this point and another person that I want to mention is Colleen Harris who is the IBCPC national rep for New Zealand. Colleen has been the ambassador coordinator for the festival and has been instrumental in gathering several volunteers for the festival. Waikato Treasure Chests have also been amazing in organising volunteers and ambassadors and billets for the Argentinians. That is what this is all about, the fellowship, the friendships.

We simply could not have done what we have done without everybody working collaboratively, no egos, just one goal in mind to make this event memorable for all of you.

All I want to say from here on in is to have an amazing time, enjoy every single moment. I know for some of you this may be your last hurrah, so make it memorable, share the camaraderie, share the laughter, share the hugs, and especially share the love.

Now go ahead and have fun, have a most excellent night, dance the rest of the night away and I look forward to seeing you all tomorrow, some of you at Congress the rest of you at the street parade and opening and then it is into two days of participatory racing. However, I better than anyone, know that for many of you it is about the competition, enjoy every moment of that.