Kapa haka will play a major role in this week's Rotorua Primary Schools Maori Festival, with hundreds of students showcasing their performance skills.
The non-competitive festival started last night at the Rotorua Civic Theatre and will feature kapa haka and performances from students from 34 schools.
All performances will have a Maori aspect to them.
Seven of the entered schools will perform a traditional or contemporary Maori performance.
Hundreds of parents have already booked tickets for the festival with the 677-seat Civic Theatre selling out ahead of three shows this week, including last night's show.
Chairwoman Bubby Soloman said the festival had been around for 32 years in Rotorua and it had a special place in local school culture.
"To me, it's just seeing the children on stage performing. I think every parent is just so happy seeing their child on stage and in uniform. It is a big buzz for the parents."
Ms Soloman said the criteria for each performance was that schools must show aspects of Maori culture and she said they commonly saw kapa haka performances and plays.
"Most of the plays that schools use are about local myths and legends."
She said the annual festival would close on Friday, with performances during two sessions each night from 5.30pm to 7pm and 7.30pm to 9pm.
Horohoro School opened the festival last night and principal Eden Chapman said the school's students had been rehearsing their kapa haka performance solidly for about two terms.
"We always enter into the festival. We love that it is low pressure and inclusive," he said.
"We make sure every student is involved, in fact we have a child who started [yesterday] in the festival. In the past we have had children in wheel chairs on stage." He said their performance included all 50 students who sang a hymn and waiata (folk song) and performed a poi and haka.
"The support from our parents is phenomenal.
"We have 90 per cent Maori children but even the 10 per cent that aren't, their parents are still really supportive as well."
Mr Chapman said the only downfall of the festival was the Rotorua District Council did not help fund the festival and organisers regularly had to look for support from local businesses like Te Puia, who is sponsoring this year's event.
Tickets are $4 per person and can be bought at the Rotorua Civic Theatre.