This was my first year as a volunteer with the Carnival.  It has been going for several years and I made the point of attending it.  I decided to volunteer this year on the grounds I would get a better view, and wouldn’t be standing behind anybody else.  I attended a couple of meetings for volunteers in the weeks before solstice night and the Carnival team placed me with the gate keepers.  This involved standing at one of the ends of Bath Street below the Octagon with a variety of tasks: checking the lanterns that came in with children or families, making sure they had an air-hole at the top, a decent-sized candle to walk around the Octagon, and weren’t damaged; sending people to their positions in the parade; and keeping the public out as there were enough people on Bath Street to keep the organisers busy.  Inspecting the candles and sending people through was easy.  After about half an hour we lost the tape, it rolled down Bath Street and we had to keep going without it.  We were all new to this volunteer work and muddled through the other organisation.  Fortunately the organisers kept an eye on us and we rose quickly to meet the learning curve.

When the parade began we picked up our fire extinguishers and took our positions with the big lanterns.  If a lantern caught fire then our first response would be to bring to ground and stamp it out.  Any therapy for children can then follow!  If it was more drastic then I know the theory behind using a fire extinguisher even if I haven’t had the practice.  Fortunately this was not the night to test myself!  The parade went off without a hitch.  I was one of the gate keepers with the waka lantern, the first big lantern in the parade.  It was accompanied by a kapa haka group dressed down to their underwear covered by a thin cloak and skirts, barefoot even.  Not a way to dress on Solstice Night!  They kept moving.  One of the performers broke his oar.  It was quickly picked up and handed to a warden.  The bearers of the giant lantern were quite pleased to know I was there with a fire extinguisher.  They had no plans to go down with their boat!

Ahead of us were the Matariki stars.  They were borne on the backs of young children.  One of them was an errant star.  I had to guide her forward at one point.  All the children were warmly clad.  There had been rain earlier in the day.  It had lifted by this time of night leaving only wet streets and brief moments of light drizzle.  I did not see much of the parade.  My attention was kept by the giant lantern.  We walked through the dry smoke and followed the incline of the Octagon.  A magic experience that many families came out for.  At the end of the parade I watched as the performers came back out of the Octagon onto Bath Street.  The lanterns were extinguished.  It was over and everyone could get warm again who needed to.

I’m sure to get roped back into the Carnival next year.  Here’s a chance to become good!

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