The Knysna Oyster Festival has become a massive part of the South African calendar and with the festivities moving back into town this year, chances are 2012 will be bigger than ever.
Starting on July 6 and running until July 15, the annual festival caters for everybody from the weekend warriors looking to get stuck into the running, cycling and multi-sports events, to the foodies travelling to the coastal town for oysters and local fare.
The schedule has not been finalised yet, but already it is looking packed, while the influx of visitors over the duration of the festival – if the entries into the races are anything to go by – is going to be up from previous years.
But for festival manager Nicci Rousseau-Schmidt, it is the move from Louis Park back into town that is going to be the biggest highlight of this year’s event.
“The highlight is the fact that the venue is moving back to town – it creates an amazing hub as people walk all over town. As you come into town you will see the branding and the flags and that will create a lot of excitement. We have created a really nice event schedule in town as well, which I really think will add to the festival,” she told iafrica.com.
“Because before it has been at a number of different venues, but now it will all be pretty much concentrated in one area, which will be great for visitors.”
A good balance
This will be the 29th Knysna Oyster Festival and while the races are still considered the anchor events – the half marathon sold out in three days – the programme has evolved since the inaugural event and now includes something for everybody.
“Sport is definitely the anchor event,” admits Rousseau-Schmidt.
“But what happened over the last five years is that the programme has filled up with the lifestyle events and we have worked hard on building on that. So what we have found is that while people come for the marathon or the cycle events, they stay longer and do the other events, which is why we have also planned the kids’ events as well.
“There is also a young Oyster Festival programme for the kids, running from the Saturday to the Saturday. There will be cooking for the kids, kids’ art and much more. It is totally for family.
Food is also an important part of proceedings, and for all the foodies, never fear, because there is plenty available.
“We are looking at a night market to go with the wine festival on the Friday as well,” reveals Rousseau-Schmidt.
“Knysna is very popular with its markets. We used to have an oyster and wine Mardi Gras on the Wednesday, but this year we will have a big food event at that venue as well – the flavours of Knysna.
“There will be an oyster eating competition, an oyster shucking competition, while restaurants in the area will also be running oyster hot spots, where they will all be preparing them in different ways.
“There will definitely be a good balance between sport and eating and enjoying the better part of life and Knysna.”
To say the festival is popular would be an understatement. Last year about 60 000 people attended and more are expected in 2012. So, if you’re thinking of going, you better start looking for accommodation, because it fills up quickly.
“Booking is essential, particularly for the weekend of the run and the cycle,” says Rousseau-Schmidt.
“If you are doing either and you have not booked yet, you need to do it immediately. The half and full marathon are already full.
“Usually the weather in Knysna over winter is pretty moderate so we have no wind, beautiful sunny days – although evenings can be a little nippy of course – so it’s a wonderful winter holiday. It will be the best 10 days of your winter!”
For more info, visit www.oysterfestival.co.za