It made the hair on your arms stand up - a welcome that clearly displayed the mana of Tauranga Moana and Mataatua.
A 500-strong Mataatua group led by Awanui Black met thousands of performers and supporters from across the country as they flowed on to Baypark for a powhiri to open Te Matatini Kapa Haka Festival this morning. As the manuhiri (visitors), fronted by the Maori King Tuheitia Paki, drew near, the Mataatua group parted at one side to let a group of about 20 warriors come to the front to meet the visitors, before erupting into a haka powhiri.
Their eyes widening, legs strained, hands clenched on their taiaha _ it was a display all of Mataatua could be proud of.
The energy from the loud cries and combined chant of 500 voices echoed around the stadium.
If this represented what is in store for the festival it will no doubt be an event to remember.
Today the first of the 36 teams competing at Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Festival will take to the stage.
It has been dubbed the biggest event to hit the Western Bay with 10,000 people a day expected to the event, which runs until Sunday.
The biennial festival is expected to inject $6.7m into the local economy and accommodation outlets across the Western Bay spoken to by the Bay of Plenty Times have said they are either fully-booked or close to it.
Up to 10 international media will cover the event which will be broadcast nationally via Maori Television. Te Puu Ao of Te Taitokerau are the first group to take to the stage at 4pm followed by the only team from Tauranga Moana competing, Te Kapa Haka o Ngati Ranginui, at 4.40pm.
Today's performances will finish after 9pm, with Saturday and Sunday running from 9am to late into the evening. On Sunday nine finalists will take to the stage from 9am-3pm and prizegiving will be held from 3.30pm.
The entire festival will be in te reo Maori but a new initiative of the event is Hakarongo Mai, which uses a small radio device to provide English translations to non-speakers of the language.
Those not attending can listen to Moana AM _ which will be broadcasting in te reo Maori _ on frequency 1440 or www.irirangi.net.