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Rag West streets ahead in community spirit

Cross an old-fashioned Sunday school picnic with Easter sports of the sort once held at Te Mata and – if you’re of sufficient age – you get some idea of how it was at Oram Park in Raglan West last Saturday as kids and adults from the neighbourhood contested a series of events reminiscent of a bygone era.

There were sack races, three-legged races and wheelbarrow races, a loudspeaker and a simple point-scoring system on a board under a tree. Over in one corner there was a sausage sizzle while, flanking the park on the other side, the church was open for toilet stops or drinks of water.

First aid was at the registration desk where 60 to 70 locals from the seaward side of Raglan West had put down their names. “Scream and then come here,” said the note on the board alerting people to what to do in an emergency.

Despite the hints of yesteryear the event was an entirely new one – Raglan West’s inaugural ‘Top Street’ competition, which as the name suggests was loosely based on the ‘Top Town’ television series of the ’70s and ’80s.

A smattering of neighbourhood dogs – some patriotically sporting the colours of their owners’ teams – raced about yelping excitedly as residents battled for supremacy from 10ish in the morning through into the afternoon, with a barbecue lunch break in between.

Taipari Avenue locals – in brilliant yellow get-ups – won the day, triumphing over their red and green rivals.

Not by much, they admitted, but even so they reckoned their house prices must be up by $200,000 now they lived in the best (street) of the west.

Team colours – those from Pokohui St/Nihihihi and Tahuna Aves wore red and Uenuku and Karekare competitors green – were inspired by Rasta stripes signifying peace, love and unity, explained Top Street co-organiser Pauly.

Pauly, who remembers his “old man” watching ‘Top Town’ back in the day, said he and neighbour Dave O’Loughlin simply “downsized” the idea over a couple of drinks one day to make ‘Top Street’ happen. A pamphlet drop spread the word, they said, and the good old-fashioned sports day became a full-on community effort.

Pauly told the Chronicle he had really wanted the central park – which already boasts community fruit trees and garden – to be used by the locals, while Dave was right into “fun and games”.
A round-the-block, super-extreme event after lunch had teams working in relays and making good use of the high tide in the nearby estuary, with contestants swimming and paddleboarding in between obstacle and wheelbarrow races.

But the biggest event was the tug o’ war at the end of it all, said local sportswoman Lisa Thomson – one for kids and another for adults. It was an “awesome” day of neighbourhood bonding and goodwill, she enthused. “It will totally happen again!”

Edith Symes

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