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Howard's End: Hogwild In Westland

Renowned for wild "foods" like bulls balls, worm slammers, Westcargo snails, steamed huhu grubs, stags breath and whitebait, Hokitika looks set to break all attendance records this weekend as it holds its 12th annual Wildfood's Festival. John Howard writes.

The Wildfoods Festival, held in Hokitika since 1989, looks set to attract around 25,000 people to the West Coast town this weekend, increasing its population five times over.

What seems to have made the Wildfood's Festival so popular for 12 years, is that it's a time where the older generation in Westland welcomes the younger generation into their midst and says we were also young once - "go for it." And after all, the motto of the Westland District Council is - "Westland, for the wild at heart."

Bouyed by the continued success of the Wildfoods Festival, the Council recently decided to add one more event to the Hokitika calendar when it provided $60,000 to help stage the inaugural 'Thunder in Westland' formula 1,2 and 3 motorcycle street races on Sunday June 3 of Queens Birthday long weekend. Like the Wildfoods Festival, there was no objections from the community.

As Westland Mayor, John Drylie keeps emphasising, "Put a pig in the window and dare to be different." The NZ wild pig is the Festival's mascot.

The Wildfoods organisers are confident that this year's event will exceed previous records because more than16,000 tickets, the number who attended last year, have already been pre-sold for this festival.

The events kicked-off earlier this week with the live poets society holding a function in Trappers restaurant and, on Thursday night, there was a huge crowd for "The Voices from the Bush" which featured original New Zealand bush verse, yarns and humour all washed down with ample quantities of bush tucker and the Coast's famous Monteith's beer.

Tonight "The Roar" will feature top band ZED who recently won the album and best group of the year awards. They are supported by Eye TV, SNAFU and Aprillis in what looks like being an extreme event which will set the soul on fire.

On Saturday night former Beach Boys, Jeff Foskett and Billy Hinsche, along with four other bands, will perform at the Wildfoods venue in Cass Square. On Sunday the Hokitika Racing Club will hold a horse race meeting featuring both harness racing and gallops.

Each year Festival organisers build a "city" of huge marquee's and gazebo's to cater for the crowds and accomodation is already booked out from a 150 kilometer radius of Hokitika. Even so, many party animals still like to sleep 'au naturale' under the stars and in the past the beach has often been covered end to end with slumbering bodies who have mostly been well behaved. Huge numbers of portable loo's are dispersed around the town by the Council.

It seems to be uncanny, but the weather has always been good for the Wildfoods Festival weekend and today, there is not a cloud in the sky with a similar forecast for the next few days.


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