Palmerston North will provide a showcase of kapa haka over the next few days with hundreds of primary and intermediate school children competing in the national kapa haka competition.
Forty seven groups dressed head to toe in piupiu, woven cloaks and full facial moko, will perform items boasting of their history, marae and ancestors.
The sweet sound of the Children of Ruatoki rang out from the stage this afternoon as they kicked off the 2015 national competitions.
Over the week hundreds of feet will shake the stage and lullabies will fill the air as performers brandishing Maori taiaha and patu feature their hard work.
Te Whetu McCorkindale, who travelled with his children, said they did his family proud.
"It's always a hard job being first on stage and we talked about setting the bar high and they made us proud, their nannies and koros proud, their marae proud and Tuhoe Iwi proud."
But the children of Ruatoki were hit with a tragedy just hours before they performed.
Kaumatua Tiwi Black, a master of kapa haka and a recipient of the life time Waka Toi award for service to the arts, passed away in Ruatoki last night.
Mr McCorkindale said the news was devastating.
"We had to share this information with the kids because some of his mokopuna are in the group.
"We used it for inspiration for our kids and we felt that on stage today we could feel the emotion in the way they sung and performed on stage today. Utua te kino ki te pai - we used it for inspiration for our tamariki."
More than two judges and experts will have the difficult task of evaluating the different aspects of this competition.
"They'll be looking at the first impression they hear and see on stage," Mr McCorkindale said.
"They'll be looking at poise and unison, actions in unison, legs in unison, they'll be listening out for sweet singing, they'll be looking for leaders that can lead the groups from beginning to end."
The competition continues through till the end of the week but it was over for the Ruatoki school group.
They'll be joined by a 60-strong group of Tūhoe people who live in Wellington, and together they'll travel home to Ruatoki to pay their respects to the man who has contributed so much to haka, his marae, his community and his iwi.
Tiwi Black was lying in state at Ohutu Marae, Ruatoki.