Central Otago’s hockey season is off to a roaring start, following Central Otago Hockey Association’s (COHA) festival week last week.

Close to 950 players from across the region took part in the festival, held at the Cromwell Hockey Turf last week.

COHA community manager Berber Swart said the festival gave players a chance to play their first games of the season.

‘‘All teams will get their first hit out in a fun and exciting format, with a couple of shortened [non-competition] games,’’ Swart said.

Players from across the district took part in the event, from children as young as 5, some who were playing their first game of hockey, to men and women’s senior teams.

Although this was the first time the hockey association had held such an event, Swart said it would be a great way to start each season in the future.

‘‘We want to start this season in an exciting and positive way.

‘‘We think this is important, because the more fun children and adults have playing hockey, the longer they will stay involved in the sport.’’

As well as games, the festival included a second-hand hockey sale and a skill development zone. The event also included the standard festival fare of an ice cream truck, a coffee cart, and a sausage sizzle, sponsored by a local supermarket.

‘‘We are really turning it into a festival,’’ Swart said.

‘‘We would love to grow hockey in Central Otago and we try to invest in bringing in new members, but just as important is keeping existing members involved, giving them the space to develop and events like the festival week to keep them excited for hockey.’’

The winter hockey season starts throughout the region this week.