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Taufa Kaifa was “King for a day” during Paeroa’s Santa Parade on December 2. Photo: KELLEY TANTAU

Carvers spend a year making float

It was back in 2021 when Alby Tukia and Sefo Tupou started working on what would become the hero piece of their 2022 Christmas Parade float.
The two carvers from Thames and Paeroa, respectively, crafted an 11-foot tall rimu chair to showcase during the yearly Santa Parades.
They’ve already completed the Paeroa parade – and won People’s Choice while they were at it – and will be at the Thames Parade this weekend, ready to “smash it out of the park”.
“My brother passed away up in Auckland, and he used to collect recycled things. I went up and saw [the rimu] and I never thought about carving it at the time, but I kept it and it came together,” Alby told The Profile.
Alby is the president of the Paeroa and Thames Tongan Community, and this year, their float had the theme of ‘The Royal Family’, symbolising the British and Tongan monarchies.
The chair is named Tu’i Tonga – a line of Tongan kings that originated in the 10th century – and for the Paeroa parade on December 2, local Taufa Kaifa stood atop the float’s highest point, thus making him “King for a day,” Alby said.
He is not sure how much the chair weighs, but it takes “four or five Tongans to lift it”.
“With Covid – we all know it was a hard time – so to get the chair ready for last weekend was very special for us, in the sense that there was a hardship everyone in the world had gone through with Covid,” Alby said.
“But the chair represents happy times.”
Alby said the Tongan community was again ready to “smash it out of the park” at Thames’ Santa Parade on Saturday.
He said they were “very honoured and very blessed” after being named Paeroa’s People’s Choice winners.
“We were surprised because this is just our second year over in Paeroa taking part in the Christmas Parade, so we were very, very happy to get the People’s Choice and very honoured that the people of Paeroa see us as part of their community there.”
The chair is for sale, and at the post-Christmas Parade whānau party at Thames South School, people are welcome to view it, and take photos with it, Alby said.
DETAILS: Thames’ Santa Parade, this Saturday, December 17 from 10.50am. Kicking off at the north end of Pollen St, then on to Thames South School for a whānau day event.