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Friday, April 21, 2017

Harvest festival, Orchard parks

Southland's Heritage Orchard Parks

Over the past couple of weeks, clebrations to mark the opening of heritage orchard parks in Riverton, Tuatapere, Monowai and Mokotua have been held. Each featured the unveiling of beautifully carved signs, made at Southern Shell here in Riverton, and attended by representatives of the families from whose orchards the trees the parks now hold, along with locals from each of the Southland locations that now feature an orchard park. Mayor Gary Tong cut the ribbon at Tuatapere, supported as he did so by the enthusiastic team from the town whose combined work has produced an orchard of their very own, as has the work of the teams at Riverton, Monowai. Mokotua held their Grand Opening Ceremony just recently, with ribbon cutting, plaque unveiling, speechifying and cider-toast making for everyone involved, an apple press squeezing out heritage juice, displays of fruit from the trees growing in their orchard park snuggledin the shelter of their country hall; a lovely scene, delightful people and a great initiative that Southland is proud of. There are more orchard parks to come this winter. Robyn and the Open Orchard team have their sights set on Winton, Ohai, Nightcaps, Edendale and Waikaia and are busy talking with their community boards about the opportunity to become another heritage orchard in the Orchard Park chain. The parks are destined to become a tourist attraction, we believe, perhaps for a special sort of traveller who searches out history in its various guises, and could be enhanced by some of the technological bells and whistles that give added value to other tourist attractions; information that pops up on the cellphones of visitors when they wave them over mysterious QR codes printed on the orchards gate posts, video that entertains, audio that informs, that sort of whizz-bang newfangled stuff that makes heritage more palatable to everyone. Congratulations must go to Robyn Guyton in particular, for her relentless work in finding and grafting the heritage fruit trees, organising spaces for the parks, communicating with locals to maintain the orchards and generally making it all happen.

The 9th Heritage Harvest Festival

The late-March date for the 9th harvest festival was an ideal one, with weather that made everything a pleasure; the big marquee stayed put, the crowds turned out for a day's entertainment at the festival followed by some time on the beach and the fruit on display was ripe, despite a grey summer. Visitor numbers were as high as ever, with a great increase in the numbers of children apparent, all busy playing with the old fashioned games on the lawn and in the tent managed by the Steiner pre-school team. The apple press squeezed out bottle after bottle of fresh juice and everybody who brought in apples from their own trees got the chance to turn the handles. Musicians and singers, including the fabulous Saylen Guyton, kept the atmosphere in the hall lively and sweet, as did the stall holders, selling all sorts of fragrant and enticing wares. The Harvest cafe was humming with activity and the tables always occupied by diners, enjoying the healthy food. The honey bee fanciers spent all of their time talking with would-be bee-keepers and the vegetable and garland display tables looked fabulous, festooned with hand-made, hand-grown wonders. Workshops on almost every imaginable activity, from seaweed foraging to urban gardening ran over both days and were very popular. Our special global guest, Phil Rainford, had flown all the way from England to share his extensive knowledge of heritage apples with us, and described the weekend as the highlight of his life! Everyone agreed that the festival was wonderful and worthwhile, even those, like myself, who might take a while to recover from the huge effort of putting everyhing up, then taking everything down again. Congratulations to all concerned with running the Harvest Festival; your work has once again resulted in Riverton's appeal growing and her fame spreading.  

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