A float parade in Tonga initiated by the Ministry of Tourism aimed to lighten up the mood in the Kingdom amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Tourism Industry and Cultural Festival comes after more than a year since mass gatherings, including the annual Heilala Festival, was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fifteen floats took part and competed in the parade that started from the CBD to the Taufa'ahau Domestic Wharf.
Frederica Tuita Filipe awarded the prizes to the best floats in two competing categories - a cultural category and a business category.
There were cash prizes for first, second and third place and all participants received consolation cash prizes.
In the business category, first place went to Tonga Institute of Higher Education (TIHE) School of Tourism and Hospitality, second was a tie between the Ministry of Customs-Revenue and Digicel. The Ministry of Education float came in third.
TIHE lecturer Selita Kinikini-Latu said they wanted to create a float that reflected the vision of the institute, hence why the banner saying a 'productive future'.
"We wanted our float to encourage our young generations not to drop out of school, but to come through this stream of education in order to make their way up and help build the economy," she said.
The theme for the festival was 'beautiful Tonga', and Kinikini-Latu said that TIHE's School of Tourism wanted to highlight natural beauty and the beauty of nature with their float.
"We didn't buy new resources. The students donated the materials, so we used flowers and coconut leaves, anything we could find in our own backyards.
"We wanted our float and the work we have done to create the float to empower the young people and the people of Tonga to know that we do not need to have the wealth of the world to make a productive Tonga, we just need to make use of the resources that we have.
"The added banners seen on the windscreen and on top of the float were kindly done by Mr. Taniela Petelo and Mr. Saia Akoteu of Seleka Arts Gallery while the women prepare the 'pola' (weaving coconut leaves) and flower arrangement," Kinikini-Latu said.
What made the experience special for the students at the School of Tourism was having their deputy director of education Dr Raelyn Esau participate with them in creating the float.
Kinikini-Latu explained that those who participated in the creation of the float had no experience in weaving, but worked as a team to figure out how to utilise the materials they had on hand.
"We sat down and looked at each other, amused, at how we were going to weave designs together," she said.
"Dr Esau was behind us all the whole time, so we collectively put our thoughts together and while we were brainstorming, Dr Esau managed to weave one pattern.
"That was how it went, following each other's lead when it came to weave the coconut leaves and the palm leaves.
It took TIHE six to seven hours on Sunday July 4 to complete their float; the Float parade was held on Monday July 5.
Kinikini-Latu said she was thrilled to hear that they had come first.
"We were very excited especially as the experience taught us the power of teamwork and it brought us all closer together," she said.
For the cultural category, Fisi'ihangale Handicraft Development Group from Va'epopua won first place, while the To'utupu Siulanga he 'Ofa from Nukuhetulu came second.
Also featured on the parade were the colourful marching school bands from Tailulu College, Tonga College, Tonga High School and Teacher's Training College.