Dancers at P&O Napier Art Deco Festival. © itravelNZ Creative Commons

Napier Art Deco Festival: colour, charm and Art Deco


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Napier and its outlying towns had to rebuild after the devastating 1931 earthquake.

In a real silver-lining tale, what was created was of the time architecturally and that time was all about Art Deco, Spanish Mission and Stripped Classical, if that helps at your next Trivial Pursuit night. (Do they still even have those?) In dense, intense and immense concentration, it created the most beautiful collection of buildings.

In true sunny and optimistic Hawke’s Bay style, every summer — the third week in February to be exact — the city celebrates the virtues of this movement and this period. Flappers! Gangsters! Flappery gangsters. Gangly flappers! Drinks, dancing, Gatsby-esque glamour. And they don’t just Charleston their way down the main street — no way, Jay.

There are over 250 events, from dancing, dining and drinking of the fine local wine through to displays of hundreds of period cars. There’s music galore, of course, outdoor fireworks and, if you’re good, an aerobatic display of not insignificant plumage.

As anyone who has been to a fancy-dress party would well know, unless everyone gets into the spirit, the thing can fall flat as the whitewalls on your Packard.

Hawke’s Bay is a region of sunshine-y optimism, people. They don’t just get into the spirit of it, they elevate that spirit to the skies and beyond. They go crazy, Daisy, in a good way. It really is ‘something else’.

They’re nearly three decades into this now, so the organisation is as sharp as the crease on your three-piece, sir, and as jaunty as the angle on your fedora. And if you forgot to put your shirt studs in your backpack, don’t be glum, chum: there’ll be someone amongst the 40,000 other attendees who will help you out. You’ll be ‘dudin’ up your shirt front’ Astaire-style down on Marine Parade singing ‘I Cover the Waterfront’ before you can say, well — there’s not much more to say, is there, really!


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