By Murray Chapman
Chairman, Kowhai Festival
Welcome to the 50th Anniversary of the Kowhai Festival, the second longest-running community festival in New Zealand and now one the biggest events in Rodney.
I wonder if that first festival committee all those years ago ever dreamt that its creation would last this long or grow to the size it is today, regularly attracting more than 200 stalls and between 15,000 and 20,000 visitors. We have had performances by some of the best of local and national music acts, some of whom have gone on to bigger and brighter futures in the entertainment industry. There are families who come to the festival who first visited as young children and who are now bringing their own families along to enjoy all that is on offer.
The festival has changed over the years, partly because we have just run out of room and also because of council restrictions around health and safety. For instance, there is no room in the main street to do a parade anymore and it is deemed too dangerous to have people, especially children, in the river without a massive amount of paperwork, with safety precautions that would have been laughed at 30 years ago.
As the town has grown, so has the Kowhai Festival and I imagine that a lot of the visitors from out-of-town often return to holiday and spend their money in the shops at this time. There are still huge opportunities for businesses to promote themselves during the festival with the aim of enticing those visitors back at a later date.
Events like the Kowhai Festival do not just happen by themselves and it could not happen without the many businesses and the Local Board, who year after year get behind it with sponsorship of services and products.
I want to also pay tribute not only to the current committee, but all of those who have been before. They put in hours and hours of voluntary work to bring the festival to life, to bring joy to thousands of people. To me, they are the true stars of the Kowhai Festival.Enjoy the many activities over the next month and, once again, welcome to the 50th Kowhai Festival.