The inaugural Tiaki Maniototo Taiari Wai River Festival, held on January 20th at the former Pātearoa school was a great success, with over 300 people showing up to enjoy some great music, food and learning opportunities.
Starting a new festival is always a gamble, but in the sparsely-populated Māniatoto the odds are even higher, so it would be fair to say we organisers lost plenty of sleep the night before, wondering if anyone was actually going to show up on the day.
A team of local volunteers put in a big effort to get everything set up, preparing the site and helping Ewan Mason set up his sound system on the trailer generously provided by Ranfurly Transport. In true Māniatoto style, seating was hay bales borrowed from local farmer Ian Hore.
The next morning, we woke to fierce winds howling across the Māniatoto plain. These were forecast to increase. However the winds abated just as the first band started and we were treated to a beautiful day, with the boisterous westerly taking the edge off the heat.
In the end, the event was everything we hoped it would be and more —a great country festival, well-attended by locals and visitors from outside the area. Food and drink was taken care of by the Waipiata Country Hotel and Alchemy Alley who provided a range of local delicacies to keep everyone going while Sue Tisdall kept the coffee flowing from her Java Express trailer,
Inside the school building we had some wonderful learning opportunities. Kids and adults alike were enthralled to learn about freshwater ecology from Otago Regional Council’s Jack Mathieson, local lizards from Carey Knox and prehistoric Otago forests from Mike Pole.
Dunedin bands Jo Little and Jared Smith, Maplewood String Band and Tahu and the Takahē kept everyone entertained with over four hours of music. Fish and Game provided entertainment for the kids with their casting game.
We’d like to thank Ranfurly Transport, Ewan Mason, all the volunteers, vendors and bands as well as Fish and Game and Otago Regional Council. And finally, big thanks to the Otago Community Trust, whose generous funding allowed it all to happen.
Based on this year’s event we can confidently say we will run it again next summer, bigger and better, and that’s entirely due to the support the community gave it this year. So thanks everyone for being part of it. See you all in 2025!