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Thousands Attend Wildfoods Festival

Thousands Attend Wildfoods Festival

Tens of thousands flock to Hokitika Wildfoods Festival to swallow scorpions, sheep testicles, seagulls, grasshoppers, snails, slugs and huhu grubs

From the bright yellow Greenpeace "No War" t-shirt people to the Bleeting Mamas and the cross-dressing nuns -- they were all there at the 14th annual Wildfoods Festival in sunny Hokitika today.

Governor General Dame Silvia Cartwright had the opportunity to taste sheep's eyes or testicles, seagull legs, scorpions, huhu grubs, worms and grasshoppers at the festival today. She declined some of the offers but did try the Hokitika Girl Guides' snail stall.

Dame Silvia officially opened the 14th annual festival this morning then joined in with more than 20,000 other festival-goers to sample unusual Fear Factor-style wildfoods from the 90 stalls.

Hundreds of corporate types from Auckland and Wellington stood shoulder to shoulder with genuine, hospitable rough-hewn West Coasters as they bathed in glorious sunshine beneath Mt Cook clearly bearing down in the distance.

About 8000 Mexican scorpions -- all dead and mostly soaked in vodka -- were in big demand. So were the Chatham Islands' seagull eggs -- and roasted flappers (baby seagulls).

An estimated crowd of 23,000 people were forecast to set a record attendance making the event the biggest special food festival of its kind in New Zealand.

The festival draws in more than $2 million to the local community. Hokitika, the Westland dairy centre and greenstone capital of New Zealand, has a population of 3300.

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