Akaroa Frenchfest 2017
Akaroa Frenchfest 2017
When someone mentions the name ‘Akaroa’ it immediately brings to mind a small French flavoured town by the sea, and for good reason. Rich in French history, street names signposted as ‘Rue’, and French flags scattered throughout the village, the reminders of the original European settlers to the area have not been lost.
Akaroa is by all accounts now a traditional ‘New Zealand’ town, but its past is anything but with French history dating back to the early 1800s. It is for this reason that this Gallic history is celebrated biennially at the Akaroa Frenchfest.
Held over the weekend of 6-8 October 2017, Frenchfest kicks off with the Friday night street party, ‘Fête des Lumières’. The waterfront of Beach Road is closed to vehicles, allowing people to enjoy a night of entertainment while spilling out onto the road, or from within the restaurants and bars.
Saturday morning French Bay plays host to one of the most important historical parts of the Frenchfest, the re-enactment of the landing of the French & German passengers of the Comte de Paris. A French sailing ship, the Comte de Paris set sail from Rochefort, France in May 1840 bound for Akaroa for the purpose of developing a French colony in the South Island of New Zealand. After 5 months at sea, and an extremely hard journey, the settlers landed in French Bay to set up their new lives in Akaroa.
During the re-enactment, spectators will be entertained by a new theatrical living history, that brings to life the settlement of Akaroa in 1840. A multi-cultural camp site on the beach with French and English soldiers, whalers from around the world, early farmers, tangata whenua, tents and lots of costumes will set the scene for the arrival of the Comte de Paris. Spectators will then watch as the cutters make their way from the ‘Comte de Paris’ ship with the French and German settlers, while the waka passes by inspecting the new arrivals to their land. The new settlers are then greeted by the Mana Whenua of the land.
From there a parade moves the celebrations down Rue Lavaud, entering Jubilee Park for the ‘Le Jour du Marché’. Here the magic of the blue, white and red swirls around a full day of market stalls, traditional French games, French food, wine, education, entertainment, and much more.
Saturday night plays host to a ticketed cabaret evening for the adults in the large marquee, with Can Can dancers, bands and burlesque entertainment.
Sunday the Frenchfest once again strengthens its connection with the local tangata whenua, with a celebration of Maori culture at the Onuku Marae Whanau Fun Day.
“Akaroa is very proud of its European and Maori heritage, and the celebration of Frenchfest is one way of paying homage to it.” Margaret Moir, Chairman of the Akaroa Heritage Festival Society says. “The connection with the local tangata whenua who were here to welcome the settlers is very important too, and we are thrilled to have them as part of the events”.
Frenchfest is a mainly free family orientated event being held 6-8 October 2017. This unique event celebrates the unity of European and Maori cultures in a historic township like no other, and continues to develop an ever growing national and international following. It’s the perfect excuse to spend the weekend in Akaroa, enjoying the culture, food, wine and hospitality.