Te Matatini held every two years is the pinnacle of Māori performing arts in Aotearoa and showcases young talent coming through the ranks - and now they're looking to the future.
Festival organisers want to encourage rangatahi to start their kapa haka career younger, as a way of making sure the festival thrives.
One rangatahi, Taonga Flavell, one of the youngest peformers in his group at Te Matatini in February, said he was pushed just as hard as the senior members.
"Tranings were pretty full-on. They were always looking for the best looking performers and in terms of the language, te reo Māori, we had some of the best speakers, so they pushed a lot for the development of not only the professional Māori speakers but the new ones as well."
Flavell's first taste of Matatini in 2013 was in a group called Manaia, from his home town of Rotorua.
He said the experience opened up a world of knowledge about his people.
"It gave me the opportunity to go back to my roots and research different lines of whakapapa to the group and how my whakapapa aligned to different people within that group.
"I could see how I belonged there."
Te Matatini chairman Selwyn Parata said developing young people like Flavell would ensure the festival had a bright future.
He said the amount of talent from rangatahi in kapa haka was vast and he is determined to see them shine at a national level.
"Going into the future, we want to grow kapa haka excellence in our regions and the whole of Aotearoa. That begins with growing our talent pool.
"We all know that our young people are talented and will take us to the next taumata. There are many school groups now that are just as good as the adult groups."
Dionne Bidois, another rangatahi, was a reserve at this year's Te Matatini but was going to keep trying to have her voice heard on the big stage one day.
She said being immersed in a senior group preparing for Matatini was daunting, but worth every second.
"It's the most scary thing in the world, and you kind of go in thinking that nobody is going to like you.
"You're the new fresh meat and you think everyone is going to be mean to you but once you realise that everyone looks after you because you are the youngest, it's the most amazing feeling ever."
Being involved in Te Matatini at such a young age was an experience she would cherish for life.
"What I love the most is knowing that you have a second family. After all the weeks of training and all the tears and sweat that you've put into it, the outcome is just amazing, and you walk away knowing that you have people you can count on."
Mr Parata said performing in kapa haka not only opened the door for rangatahi to take to the Matatini stage, but created leaders and added value to society.
"Young kaihaka not only learn about their reo and tikanga Maori but also discipline, hard work, committment and, most importantly, working together to succeed.
"Kapa haka provides a platform to advance and promote whanaungatanga, kotahitanga and community."