The eighth annual Shoalhaven Digger Day this year on July 27 will be special for a number of firsts.
It will be the first time the event has come under the auspices of the Keith Payne VC Veterans Benefit Group and it will also be the first time the event has carried the name of former local veteran Kan Vandenberg, who tragically passed away in 2013.
From this year on the event will be known as the Kane Vandenberg Digger Day.
Nowra-based Chief Petty Officer Kane Vandenberg was killed in a mountain bike accident during a registration ride at the Defence Mountain Bike championship at Mt Stromlo, Canberra.
CPO Vandenberg, 46, was a highly respected member of the navy's aircraft engineering staff, spending most of his career at HMAS Albatross prior to being based in Canberra.
Victoria Cross recipients Keith Payne and New Zealand's Willie Apiata will again headline a list of special guests at this year's Digger Day.
Mr Payne, now 85, has attended every Digger Day, while for Mr Apiata this year marks his fifth visit.
Both are now, more than ever, entrenched as part of the special annual event.
The Shoalhaven's connections with the VC will also be highlighted this year with Doug Rattey the great-nephew of Reg Rattey VC and Ryan Dukes the great-nephew of Australia's first WWI VC Albert Jacka, who now both live in the area will also be attending, as will the son and widow of Dasher Wheatley VC, Edna Wheatley, of Wollongong and George Wheatley, of Moruya.
They will be joined by men with the equivalent civilian honour, Australia's last living George Cross recipient Michael Pratt, of Victoria, and Cross of Valour recipient Tim Britten, of Perth, who are both making the journey for the event.
"Again this year is shaping up to be a huge event," said organiser Rick Meehan who is also chairman of the Keith Payne VC Veterans Benefit Group.
"They will all be special guests at the rugby, flown in by helicopters from HMAS Albatross before taking part in the official ceremony."
The official ceremony will also include a special performance by acclaimed violinist Rachel Bostok, who will play a stirring rendition of the Last Post on violin.
Ms Bostock wowed crowds at last year's Digger Day ball with her performance of the piece.
Legendary local bugler Peter Williams, who has also played a prominent role in all Digger Day events, will again play the Rouse, the call to duty for military personnel.
"The support again or Digger Day is outstanding," said Fred Campbell, who is vice-chairman of the Keith Payne Group.
"We can't thank everyone enough who supports this event year, in year out - groups like the Fleet Air Arm at HMAS Albatross, and new Commander Fleet Air Arm, Commodore Doug Dezentje and this year CHC Helicopters."
He said a number of other groups had also come onboard this year to support the event like the Bomaderry Charity Trust Bingo, the Vandenberg family, Foxhole Medals and Sikorsky Australia.
As well as the now traditional rugby match at Shoalhaven Rugby Park, South Nowra between long-time rivals Shoals and Kiama, Digger Day is also designed to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of the area's many veterans.
"It's a chance for all our veterans, past and present, their families and current serving personnel to get together," Mr Meehan said.
"It's just a great chance for everyone to catch up."
To that end, all veterans attending the day are urged to wear their medals.
The VIPs will be flown into Rugby Park, South Nowra by a MRH90 navy helicopter and a Westland Augusta helicopter from CHC Helicopters around noon. They will then greet both sides before a moving ceremony.
They will be officially welcomed by Shoalhaven Rugby Club officials and Commodore Dezentje and commanding officer of HMAS Albatross Captain Fiona Sneath.
The first grade clash kicks off at 1.15pm, followed by reserve grade at 3pm.
Shoals will wear a specially designed jersey, which this year pays homage to World War II and in particular Kokoda, honouring the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.
The jerseys will be for sale for $200 each, with the players being given first opportunity to purchase their jumper, and those not sold will be available for public purchase.