The Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Festival continues today after up to 10,000 disappointed fans were told to go home and about 200 others evacuated from Baypark due to nasty weather yesterday.
Strong winds ripped through stalls, fences fell and marquees were on the point of collapse on day two of the festival.
Between 8000 and 10,000 ticket holders were in the stadium by about 9am when the festival was due to start.
The difficult call to cancel the day was made about 11am, forcing organisers to cull the finals tomorrow to accommodate the teams that missed out yesterday.
Tickets will be refunded.
Droves of cars left Baypark once news spread of the cancellation. Then at 2.30pm, due to safety concerns, organisers evacuated the 200 media, volunteers, workers, VIPs and small group of ticket holders who were waiting for buses.
Charlie Tawhiao, manager of iwi-owned Moana Communications which runs Moana AM 1440, the station broadcasting the entire festival in te reo Maori, said yesterday's events were disappointing but little else could be done.
About 7.30am when Mr Tawhiao and his crew of reporters, producers, editors and helpers arrived, there were already thousands of people sitting on the benches waiting for the performers to start.
"At that stage it was wet but it wasn't blowing. Then the wind got harder," he said. It was pretty messy."
Nine finalists of the 36 teams, which were due to perform between last Thursday and today, are set to battle it out for the top spot tomorrow. However, judges will now have to pick the winners based solely on their single 30-minute performance.
Prime Minister John Key is due to attend the festival today. Another 12 teams will perform tomorrow with gates opening at 8am and the final prize-giving at 7pm.
Organisers estimated about 40,000 people would attend the festival over the four days with at least half coming in from outside the Western Bay.
The nationals are the biggest arts event in Maoridom with about 1400 performers from 13 regions, including two from Australia, performing. But numbers will most definitely be down on expectations following the bad weather.
When the Bay of Plenty Times visited Baypark yesterday about 1.30pm covers of stalls were flapping with many have come off completely, fences had tipped to one side and puddles were dotted around the centre of the stadium.
But despite it all three kuia who had arrived at Baypark before 9am managed to find the positive in the situation.
Rukuwai Rangitauira-Peka, Kararina Kire Te Rupe and Topsy Pirika sat chatting in a waiting area. "We can still whakawhanaungatanga (network). Get to know the people here and look back on past Matatini," she says.