Volleyball goes bush (in a rock 'n' blues sort of way)
AN ARTIST'S impression is the only way to give readers a picture of next weekend's "bush volleyball” event at the Mitchell Creek Rock 'n' Blues Festival at Kandanga.
Following in the footsteps of the pioneers who settled in the Mary Valley more than 150 years ago, the festival is pioneering a new version of beach volleyball.
It has not happened yet, or we would have been able to publish a photograph.
But it will be part of the family-oriented fun over three or, if you stick around for the Monday recovery, four days of partying.
The bush volleyball contest will be held over the main three days of the festival, starting at set-up time, 8am on Friday.
It will be run by international Australian beach volleyball legend Shannon Zunker, who will bring along the members of the world-beating Vanuatu team, which he coaches.
And with the help of 62 tonnes of Mary River sand trucked in to the site, they will be passing on their expertise to people of all ages, on the Olympic-sized court now under construction.
A secure kids' area will help make the event family-friendly, in a way that lets everyone enjoy themselves their own way.
Coaching sessions interspersed throughout the competition will include a chance to play with professional volleyballers and to learn from the best.
The man behind the festival, Jimmy Budgen, says the bush volleyball is a world-first.
"The buzz around the competition is huge and eight teams have entered already,” he said.
Prizes include free entry to next year's festival "and a massive trophy”.
The Vanuatu players were celebrating earlier this year when they won a second Commonwealth Games medal, after their women's beach volleyball team beat Cyprus in a playoff for bronze.
Team members Miller Pata and Linline Matauatu won in straight sets at Coolangatta Beach in April.
And after playing together on the beach volleyball world tour, including the Pacific Games and World Championships, team members say they are getting used to the fame and pressure.
"We do a lot of training for every medal we get,” they told Radio New Zealand recently.