Napier Art Deco Festival

  

Napier Art Deco Festival

Home to one of the largest collection of Art Deco buildings in the world (second only to Los Angeles, bust still boasting the highest concentration), the peaceful town of Napier on the East Coast of New Zealand's North Island is a blast from the past. The colourful and vibrant coastal city exists as it does as a result of a large earthquake in 1931 which destroyed the existing town. The city was then rebuilt in the art deco style, and every year, around the anniversary date of the earthquake, the whole town dresses up in vintage fashion. As February is one of New Zealand's warmer months, most of the action can be found outside.
After two and a half minutes of vicious shaking, the 1931 earthquake took 250 lives and has been the most lethal natural disaster in New Zealand to date. 11 new buildings were erected in the downtown area between 1931 and 1933 in the art deco style which was the fashionable trend of the time. Not only is it iconic for it's simplistic and stylistic design, as the earthquake struck during the great depression, the stripped art deco style was fairly cheap to implement, killing two birds with one stone. It has become integral to the identity of the city, and if you ask international visitors to define Napier, the two most common phrases you will hear back are “wine” and “art deco”.
So what better way to combine the art deco style and the local wine scene together than a big street festival? This attracts tens of thousands from people all over the world. Hotels are fully booked the year before, restaurants are packed to the brim and have all their staff on hold ready for an onslaught of customers, and the whole city takes to the streets to celebrate everything about Napier that makes it what it is. Vintage cars cruise the streets and offer rides to the public. Old bi-planes take to the skies for impressive acrobatic displays over the festive town. The public dress up in vintage fashion and some even show off their costumes in retro fashion shows. Jazz music fills the air from every direction, from live concerts to the stereo systems of cosy cafes. Over 125 events happen over the weekend, ensuring there is something for everybody to join in with. And yes, there is plenty of world renowned Hawkes Bay wine to accompany everything.
The official art deco trust website (artdeconapier.com) details all of the events, information and road closures as a result of the annual event, so be sure to check out the website and the official Napier tourism page (napiernz.com) to help create an efficient programme for your art deco festival visit. The programme changes slightly every year, but you can be sure to expect a plethora of vintage and retro displays, old cars and plenty of positive vibes. New Zealander's don't need much of an excuse to have a party, and the Art Deco festival is the biggest party in Napier every year.
One of the staple events in the festival is the annual soap box derby organised by the rotary club. This style of event is largely forgotten in many parts of the world, beside a rather extreme version hosted by Red Bull, but the family friendly version held during the festival is a popular event that everybody can get involved in. Children and parents race home-made carts in front of thousands of spectators. Drivers are required to wear art deco fashion, to add an extra level of authenticity to the past time and to adhere to the theme of the festival. The cars must also be pushed a little at the start but finish the race unassisted. Prizes are awarded for the crew, the outfits, the design of the carts, and also the winners of the race.
If you intend to visit the festival, make sure to plan a lot in advance as often accommodation is booked well in advance as this is often booked the year before at the previous festival and any remaining places sell out fast. If you can find lodgings, prepare for one of the biggest and most surreal parties of all time.

 

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