The famed raft race will return for the 51st Kowhai Festival.
The Kowhai Festival will be a radically scaled back event this year, which organisers say returns the celebration to a scale that more closely fits with its roots.
The festival will comprise a slimmed down Huge Day Out on Saturday, October 16, The Great Debate on Saturday, October 23, and a Kowhai Festival Children’s Event on Sunday, October 24.
The Huge Day Out will be confined to the Warkworth wharf area and will comprise around 20 to 30 stalls featuring arts, crafts, food and wine along with live entertainment. Stalls will be run by people from the Mahurangi area, selling NZ-made products.
Festivals in recent years have featured around 200 stalls the length of Queen Street and Baxter Street, and attracted around 20,000 people.
Festival spokesperson Murray Chapman says the The Huge Day Out will be promoted more to local people, rather than more widely as before, since it will be impossible to fit that many people in the wharf area.
He adds the switch back to holding the event on Saturday, while at the same time keeping Queen Street clear, should provide a boon to local retailers and restaurants. Retailers on Queen Street will be welcome to run stalls of their own outside their shops.
The children’s event on October 24 is something new and will take place in Baxter Street. It will see the return of the Kowhai Festival Raft Race – a hugely popular part of the festival back in the 70s and 80s – sponsored by Barfoot and Thompson. In addition, there will be a range of children’s amusements and rides, currently being finalised.
The Great Debate will run along the same lines as previous years. Toastmasters will take on a combined Lions-Rotary team to debate the proposition that Warkworth should be renamed Matakana South.
Toastmasters will then go up against a team of celebrities – yet to be confirmed – to debate the proposition that married men live longer.
The Warkworth Town Hall’s doors will open at 6pm for The Great Debate and the first debate starts at 7pm.
Mr Chapman says the more modest Huge Day Out partly reflects the fear that if a huge event is organised like before, it may have to be cancelled due to Covid-19, which is what occurred last year.
He says that in common with other organisations around the country, the festival committee is finding it tough to get people to come on board and help with organising and running the events.
“To run a festival on the scale of the 50th anniversary event in 2019 requires a lot of long-term volunteers on hand. We are missing that year-on-year experience and have done for the last two years,” Mr Chapman says.
He says people often worry about the time commitment involved but, in fact, it is not a huge burden and brings big rewards.
“There’s no feeling like it when you are down by the wharf or overlooking Lucy Moore Park and see the crowds of people all having a good time, and thinking to yourself, ‘I had a small part to play in doing that’,” he says.
This year will be the 51st Kowhai Festival – the second longest community festival in the country.
To learn more about volunteering at the Kowhai Festival or to enter a raft in the raft race, email email@example.com
Calling all birdmen
A Birdman competition is planned for the revamped Kowhai Festival. It will be held on the day of the children’s event. A scaffold will be built and competitors, equipped with wings and other flying contraptions, will walk a plank and jump off into the Mahurangi River. The winner will be the one who can “fly” the furthest. Would-be competitors are encouraged to start on their designs.