Seafood Soiree a Spectacular Success
Seafood Soiree a Spectacular Success!
The organizers of the first ever "Whitianga Scallop Festival" are delighted with the success of the inaugural event which took place over the weekend.
In all 6,000 people attended the Scallop Festival on Saturday 20th August and indulged in over 35,000 scallops, not too mention a great range of other Coromandel cuisine like wild pork, seafood chowder, venison burgers and local wines.
Tickets sold out a week prior the event, with organizers reporting strong demand for more tickets - which bodes well for next year’s event.
The Scallop Festival started with a karakia from Ngati Hei’s Joe Davis, who gave the festival an official blessing in front of 400 people already lined up to get through the gates at 10am in the morning.
Most of the festival goers turned up in the first hour of the festival creating huge queues which moved quickly thanks to great work by the Whitianga Lions who manned the gates at the festival.
Scallops were served up in a myriad of different styles – scallop and chardonnay shots from the committee stand, scallop kebabs, scallops wrapped in bacon, macadamia crumbed scallops, scallops in midori and coconut cream, not too mention plenty of scallops a la naturale!
Taking out the best stand of the day was OPC, the local seafood company who were instrumental in planning for the event. The OPC stand was the focal point for the day with scallops being shucked all day in front of festival goers, cooked up in different styles, along with a scallop opening competition and seafood auction. Wayne Cleall, General Manager accepted the prize for best stand jubilantly saying “We always knew this had the potential to be a sensational day and we are absolutely rapt that we have pulled it off!”
“We’ve had amazing feedback flowing in about the quality of the food and drink on offer, and this is from people who go to a lot of other New Zealand food and wine events” says Carl Muir from Tourism Coromandel “It shows that The Coromandel can foot it with the best when it comes to cuisine.”
Six live bands kept the crowds entertained through the day on different stages with a wide variety of styles including Jazz (Soul Sax Plus), Afro Jazz(Gahu), Blues (Firefly), Swiss Carnival music(Guggemusik), Acoustic (Mal Macullum) and Rock (4Eulogi). A highlight of the entertainment was the Ode to the Scallop and Battle of the Barqeques, both MC’d by Billy Conn-Early, a Coromandel-based lookalike to the international superstar.
The festival has been in the pipeline for over six months, a joint initiative from Tourism Coromandel, OPC and Destination Mercury Bay.
The event was designed to bring visitors into the region during winter and three weeks in advance of the festival accommodation for the festival weekend was booked out completely. Restaurants from Whitianga report one of their busiest days of the year, with festivities extending from Friday night to Sunday in all of the towns café’s and bars.
Tourism Minister Mark Burton attended the festival and Mr Burton commended the organisers, and the people of Whitianga, for their innovative and proactive approach to attracting visitors to the area.
"The future success of our tourism industry will, in significant part, depend on communities who build on their point of difference to raise awareness of their town as a visitor destination.
"We know that the visitors who come to our country are looking for unique, authentic experiences. Experiences that involve real interaction with our people and environments, and that is exactly what festivals such as this offer. Who would be able to resist a festival that focuses on food, wine and the arts?
"I applaud your initiative in taking a hands-on approach to attracting visitors to the area. I welcome the fact that guests, both international and domestic, will now have a chance to get off the beaten track and discover some of the country's less explored places."
While there, Mr Burton presented a cheque for $40 000 to the Mercury Bay regional museum as part of the Tourism Facilities Grant Programme.
Footage from the festival will screen on Maori TV this Sunday 28 August at 6.30, and you can follow the TV2 kids challenge (given to kids from the Mercury Bay Area school at the festival) on Studio 2 from Mon-Friday on the week of the 26 September.
The organising committee Linda Taylor Dean, Janice Bell, Benson Lockhart, Grant Collie, Wayne Cleall, Andrew Selby, Carmen Harris and Carl Muir are already planning next years festival will be bigger, better and take place at a similar time of the year.