Go Back In Time: Art Deco Weekend in Napier
This is my all-time favorite thing about Napier. Napier is my home-town, after having lived here for the last ten years. Every year I fall a little more in love with this beautiful city, and it's usually right about the time of Art Deco!
Napiers' Art Deco era rose after the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake - New Zealands deadliest earthquake to this day. The 7.8 magnitude quake shook apart the town, and the fires it caused destroyed anything left standing. A 7.3 aftershock ten days later further crippled Napier and its' surrounding towns. After the immediate recovery actions, Napier had to try and rebuild. A small 'tin town' was erected in Clive Square so that a safe and resplendent town could be rebuilt slowly. In 1933, the city was declared 'reborn' and showcased some magnificent architecture, resilient residents and a lot of hope for the future. (Click here for more detailed information about the earthquake).
Art Deco Weekend is a celebration of the rebuilding of Napier - it celebrates our beautiful city and it's iconic buildings, memorializes the people of the city during the 1930's and makes for a great weekend! It has been mentioned by writers for National Geographic and Lonely Planet and with good reason - the event is planned extremely well, has an incredible amount of era-appropriate events and a magnificent setting. Napier is also starting to be known as the 'art deco capital of the world'. It's popularity is growing too - I have been taking part for the last three years and it has at least tripled in size!
So why should you visit?
This is my main reason for loving Art Deco - seeing my city literally go back in time. It already has the structures, so when the local folk and out-of-towners get gussied up in 1930's gear, it feels like you have stepped into a time warp! There aren't many people who don't make an effort, since new and vintage outfits are available from many shops here. The frocks, heels, parasols and accessories of the ladies give them an air of grandeur and classiness. The men look dapper wearing their bow-ties, suspenders and hats - it's all a sight to behold! Even the children are dressed up in mini-me costumes by their parents, it's a wonderful time for families. The 200+ events are fantastic and varied - parties, informative walks, picnics and balls among many others. There are soap opera derbies to cheer at, the best dressed and 'bathing belles' swimsuit competition to watch, and free concerts to enjoy. The city is full of people singing and dancing, and having a wonderful time. It truly is magical!
2015 was the biggest turn out of people and cars in the festivals 26 year history, and it's vintage car heaven. I'm no expert, but it's easy to spot that these cars are loved and lavished with attention before the weekend. They have been restored to perfection, and are buffed and gleaming ready for the photographers and hordes of people to gush over. They parade through the city during the week and in a procession on the Saturday, before lining up along the parade. With their dressed up occupants, they look brilliant! If you like most things with vintage engines then you will be in for a treat - as well as the vintage cars there are steam trains to ride on and look at and a vintage plane aerial display which is very well choreographed. You will be impressed with the pilots skills!
Like I mentioned earlier, there are over 200 events to keep you busy over the weekend! Some are ticketed, but many of them are free. There are glamorous dinners and balls, free music at the Soundshell, high tea parties, dancing lessons and the awesome Saturday night street party. Bands were set up in the middle of town, there were dancers and by nightfall the whole street was completely packed with people! My friends and I like to wander into and around town and observe the festivities - there's so much to take in!
Art Deco Weekend is a really fun time to visit Napier - I think it should be on everybodys' must-see list. There aren't many times that a whole city can capture the imagination of its' visitors and send them back in time. The people are so cheerful, the outfits are incredible, and the general sense of frivolity and merriness makes for a great weekend. Come and experience it for yourself!
Check out the official Art Deco website for information and updates. If you want an outfit, you can buy or hire from many of the local shops. Visit the Art Deco building for everything deco inspired, information and guides. Another great shop is across the road, called Charleston Chic.
If you are going to stay for the weekend, book your accommodation well in advance. Over 30,000 people took part last year! I hope to see you here next year - enjoy Napiers' magic!