Best band line-up and end to playing on the grass
The big band was back with sweet vengeance. Following a two-year hiatus initiated by an ex-tropical cyclone and prolonged, in 2012, by mediocre weather combined with a lack of funding, the Prohibition Big Band line-up on Saturday night was strongest, tightest and most energetic ever, to the delight of regatta regulars and newcomers alike.
When Wilma’s trajectory caused cancellation of the band and marquee the Wednesday before the 2011 regatta date, there were no subsequent complaints from yachting fraternity—the weather had been far too vile for any but the most intransigent of skippers to set sail on the Friday. Only the handful that had sailed into the harbour earlier was there to lament the lack of the usual regatta evening prize-giving dance.
The Prohibition Big Band first played for the Mahurangi Regatta in 2004, meaning that Saturday’s sublime performance marked the end of a decade of faithful service, delivered figuratively for song. On occasions, when the event’s finances has been particularly parlous, band leader Trevor Thwaites has offered to accept ‘just what you can spare.’ This year, thanks to Rodney Local Board funding, skimping on hired items such as the number of toilets, and staging for the band, was not a temptation. Nor was it an option, given the conditions accompanying the grant. Further, because the prize-giving dance is now on a bring-your-own basis, instead of having responsibility for feeding five hundred or more hungry sailors, Sarah Ransom was able to concentrate her culinary creativity exclusively on the band. Whether the gourmet burgers the likes of which Sarah hitherto had only been able to dream of serving up contributed to the bands best ever performance can never be known. But judging by the comments of the individual musicians, the over-the-top burgers and fruit bowl and drinks of every hue—alcoholic and non-alcoholic, vegetarian and venison—certainly set the band up a treat.
Staging is notoriously expensive to hire, which is why, from 2005 onward, the Prohibition Big Band had to literally play on the grass. But rather than hire staging, sound and lighting man Bob Campbell, on his own initiative, bought a pallet of construction plywood and built a stage in situ, with a truckload of pallets borrowed from Warkworth New World serving as a base. This leaves ‘Sound Bob’ positioned to provide staging for future regattas at a nominal cost. Bob’s burger was particularly well deserved, as were those provided to ‘first responders’ Joy and Kathy, the St John stalwarts who treated five casualties during their above-and-beyond 12-hour shift. St John presence is not cheap, but aside from being a condition of the event’s regional park consent, is just part of responsible hospitality, and insurance for episodes that could otherwise all-too-easily prove deadly. Another of the consent conditions is that public liability insurance cover. At $575 this is not an insubstantial sum, although arguably two thirds of that is a charge against the shoreside regatta at Sullivans Bay. The whole question of insurance begs further examination. If Mahurangi Action organised no activities at all on either side of the harbour, thousands would still pour into the Mahurangi Regional Park to enjoy the regional spectacle that has long been the Mahurangi Regatta. It would seem possible that Auckland Council could carry ongoing insurance for consented events in its regional parks at a fraction of the cost per event than is currently sheeted home to the likes of Mahurangi Action.
The writer has only second-hand experience of this year’s prize-giving dance, having taken over shuttle bus driver duties at 8pm. However, the patrons were unanimous in singing that band’s praises, with particular mention of ‘the Scottish guy’, whose one-line bio, provided by band leader and, this year, principal drummer Trevor Thwaites gives as:
John McGill is our main vocalist; he has only recently started performing in public and has a great voice and great wit.
The 12-seater shuttle hired inexpensively from Leabourn Passenger Service began operating in the early afternoon, but during the evening ran non-stop, in both directions—parties returning to their homes and vehicles early, in consideration of the younger and older members, and parties of locals taking advantage of transport down to the landing free of parking dramas, or having to brave walking the busy narrow gravel road rendered almost impassable at several points by some astonishingly thoughtless parking. One such vehicle, prominently sign-written to advertise its owner’s business, survived until dawn the next day with not so much as a scratch, despite wider vehicles including the shuttle being required to run two wheels into the ditch to avoid contact at every pass. It did, however, provide a universal taking point, and its owner possibly put her burning ears down to windburn. The shuttle generated much obvious goodwill, particularly within the immediate community, where it helped publicise the fact that the Mahurangi Regatta Prize-Giving Dance is for everybody, despite past unfriendly deportment of a faction unaware of, or unwilling to acknowledge, the more than a century of hospitality extended there to lovers of the Mahurangi Regatta whether of the country or city. The goodwill also materialised in the donation bucket slung in the shuttle doorway, to the extent that the service paid its own way—but not, of course, the volunteer drivers, one of who was a Ridge Road resident and oyster farmer. Walking home in the light of a full moon can have its charms, but the camaraderie of the bus, and the door-to-door service, particularly for those with armloads of picnic paraphernalia, made for a entirely civilised end to a perfect regatta day:
If you’ll run us down Young Street, I’ll give you $20—ah, I’ll give you $20 anyway!
While the Scotts Landing shuttle bus broke even, the remainder of the shoreside events did not. At Sullivans Bay, inexplicably, the usual bucket collection wasn’t carried out, despite the team being provided with brightly labelled buckets and attractive Mahurangi Action posters to give in return. All rather ironic given that grateful regatta-goers gave $495 in 2012, with no expectation of a free poster. Meantime, the much more costly event, the prize-giving dance at $8821 not including the thousands of dollars of donated goods and services, fell well short of covering costs. However, backing had earlier been offered by major fans of the event, a couple seen dancing lovingly together in the marquee on the evening. Their subsequent donation of $2000 has all but closed the funding gap. Also, nicely oiling the wheels of the willing was CharterLinks’ donation of the use of one of its Bavaria 30s for a weekend.
Thanks to an initiative by Shane Hartley of Terra Nova Planning, who suggested a ‘regatta supporters’ subscription rate of $50—four of these have been received already the costs incurred by Mahurangi Action organising the shoreside events at Scotts Landing and at Sullivans Bay will largely be covered. Equally as important as donations or sponsorship are contributions in kind. For the last two regattas, Mason Bins have provided a bin or skip for the small mountain of bottles, and barbecue refuse that would otherwise have to be back-loaded aboard visiting yachts, at great inconvenience. One ball that was dropped this year was that a mass of rubbish bags is normally available to the picnickers—100 bags bought on special, have since been donated as insurance for regattas future.
Singularly responsible for Scotts Landing’s reengagement with the prize-giving dance, was part-time local resident Bruce Trethewey. Bruce became involved the previous year when he learned that some folk had missed the message about the new bring-your-own format, and found themselves ashore with no food and none on sale. With typical Trethewey hospitality, Bruce fetched his barbecue and extra supplies down to the park and made new friends for life. Immediately after the regatta he contacted the Mahurangi Magazine, offering to help in any way to make future regattas as hospitable as possible. Scotts Landing now ‘owns’ the prize-giving dance.
Last word on the dance and the Prohibition Big Band goes to a shuttle bus patron, regatta regular, and expatriate American:
I love it when they do New York, New York, and you turn around to the harbour filled with lights.