EASTERN Cape residents are spoilt for choice with four major festivals – each with a different theme – taking place on their doorsteps and set to bring an explosion of sound and colour to an otherwise cold and wet winter.
With the National Arts Festival, which kicked off in Grahamstown this week, set to attract more than 200000 festinos, the 11th annual Kirkwood Wildsfees, which starts today and lasts the weekend, is set to whet the appetites of Afrikaans music lovers and game fundis alike.
As if that were not enough, the 10-day annual Knysna Oyster Festival, in its 29th year, starts on July 6, while the Billabong Pro takes place from July 10 to 15 in Jeffreys Bay.
The weather gods are also smiling down, with an abating of the recent wet weather. Although minimum temperatures inland are set to be a chilly 4°C this weekend, sunny days will see highs of 20°C inland and along the coast.
At the Kirkwood festival, people can enjoy major national acts, with performances by Karen Zoid, Snotkop, Arno Carstens, Elvis Blue, Emo Adams, Romanz and Chris Chameleon.
"There is an air of excitement around the town. People are wearing funky colours in anticipation of the festivities,” festival director Jenni Honsbein said.
She said the festival was set to draw about 36000 people and would include about 300 stalls, "high adrenaline rides” and music shows, and the wildlife auction, which takes place today. Making its first appearance at the festival is an Afrikaans drama, My Naam is Ellen Pakkies, which features Vinette Ebrahim and Christo Davids, both of SABC2 drama 7de Laan.
An interesting first for the wildlife festival is a live penguin exhibition which will include conservation talks by the SA Marine Rehabilitation and Education Centre.
The Walking on the Wild Side experience has also become wilder, with the introduction of baby crocodiles. Visitors will be allowed to touch snakes, owls and other raptors.
Wine lovers will also be in for a treat at the Kyknet lifestyle tent.
The event has seen business booming, with B&B and guesthouses in the town fully booked.
"Kirkwood is very full with all the out of town visitors and it is very busy. This festival has helped the tourism establishments here a lot and businesses benefit from it hugely,” Lemon 3 Lodge manager Noxolo Benzi said.
Also set to entertain this winter is the Oyster Festival in Knysna, which is expected to draw 60000 visitors. With a range of more than 100 exciting activities, Knysna’s festival has added vibrance to the event by including children’s entertainment.
Later next month, Jeffreys Bay will play host to the annual Billabong Pro surfing competition.
A first for the Billabong Pro will be the three-day 5FM Music Festival which will see the likes of Jack Parow, Crash Car Burn, Mi Casa and Flash Republic perform alongside new international act Hard Fi from the UK.
Organisers said UK-based guitarist Neil Taylor would add to the international flavour.