AND the winner is ...
If there were to be an Oscar awarded over the weekend at the Matatini Kapa Haka Festival there would be more nominations than a Mumbai millionaire for the winners _ Waka Huia.
And for all the right reasons.
Not only was it their guardian godfather and tutor Ngapo Wehi's swansong, but it was the overwhelming response from the appreciative audience that had them stamped as winners right from their opening Whakaeke (entrance).
Shining on stage with Waka Huia and their winning performance was our own hometown girl Ria Hall who did Tauranga and her whanau proud.
As did the diva of downtown Katikati, Aunty Mabel, who showed she has more class than a Hollywood actress and more cheek than a Ruatahuna warrior who didn't drop a beat during his entire performance even though he lost his maro (lower half of his costume) _ leaving him naked from the waist down.
Or as Aunty Mabel would say, ``How convenient'.
Not that I was anywhere near the festival arena when they took the stage. Far from it. I was waist deep in water doing the Donald Duck dive for a feed of pipi for Pita.
The Minister of Maori Affairs was staying at our marae with his group Te Roopu Manutaki, led by his son Paora Sharples, so a little bit of under-the-limit local kai moana was more important than being part of the Bay Park buzz.
And if there was a lifetime achievement Oscar for services to kapa haka then it surely would have to go to both Bubs (Ngapo) Wehi and Dr Sharples, who at 62 was as sharp as many half his age performing on stage over the weekend.
There were plenty of magic moments at Matatini on and off the stage but for my two bobs worth of Oscar winning performances it was the mana of a man that we are so very fortunate to have as our leader that made the weekend special for me.
No I am not talking about ``Hone Keyora', aka Prime Minster John Key.
Although I do consider him the most engaging and culturally cool leader we have had in a long time _ if not ever.
Dr Pita Sharples exemplifies the true meaning of a rangatira and when I stood and watched his humility during his dress rehearsal on our marae yesterday morning on my way to pick up my Sunday papers, it gave me great hope for where we are heading as a culture and a country.
The man walks the talk and talks the walk without ever using the words me, my or I. It is always we, our and us.
And when you get a chance to observe John Key and Pita Sharples walking the talk together, as we were all able to do over the weekend, it is encouragingly obvious they have a genuine newfound friendship that will last long after their political careers are over.
The word on the kumara vine about the culturally cool coalition we now have in Aotearoa is all good.
When you ask Maori what they think of their two leaders the raised eyebrows in tautoko (support) of their rangatira a rua is almost unanimous.
Something I did not think I would ever see in my lifetime after the legacy of Orewa left by the last leader of the National Party.
But Brashs and his brethren come and go like Blue Chip and Bryers. The real leaders are the ones who do the right things for the right reasons without wanting to reap the rewards for themselves.
Something special and really rewarding happened out at Baypark over the last three days and not just on the stage.
To see so many non-Maori show up says something about how we are growing up culturally and respecting each other racially here in Tauranga Moana.
And for that Oscar-winning performance the winner is...all of us.