by Mark Dixon
“Even after a brilliant sunset, the stars come out to shine” Surely a saying that epitomises this year’s Slow Festival activities. Right from the opening ceremony on Wednesday evening with Executive Mayor Eleanore Bouw-Spies and Knysna & Partners Chairlady, Elmay Bouwer, both praising the initiative and dedication of the organising committee, this year’s Slow Festival has run with a blend of exceptional crowd participation and engaging activities.
Not only did the themed orange colour of the festival prevail throughout, but the diversity of activities offered a perfect balance for families to enjoy relaxed catch up moments after some energetic sporting events and fringe activities to entertain both children and adults.
Not to forget the true message of Easter, devotees could fortify their belief by participating in the Way of the Cross, a pilgrimage through the village with stops at various churches, each with a message of the Passion of the Christ.
Since its inception the Slow Festival has grown annually, and has become an integral part of showcasing the lifestyle of the village. From a family at the Sand Sculpture Challenge expressing excitement about their imminent move to Sedgefield, or sportsmen planning to return for next year’s Pick n Pay Goukamma Traverse Trail Run and the Garden Route Fat Bike Challenge, or parents planning to go to the ‘Movies with the Stars’ so that they can share a nostalgic outing that was part of their own youth with their children, the festival has consistently provided entertainment that embraces the warm lifestyle of a community.
If you went down to the woods, well actually to the Fish Eagle Green on Saturday to watch the start of the SUP Race and Anything That Floats, you would have been hard pressed to find parking space if you were late, testimony to the support for this and other events during the festival.
For the night owls, there was plenty of entertainment to keep you up until the early hours of the morning, starting with a music event at the Village Green and then migrating to Pili Pili for the Beer Pong competition.
Sometimes the stars even shine during the day at the Slow Festival, and festinos were graced with the presence of local hero Miss South Africa, Demi-Leigh Nel-Pieters who, to the delight of everyone, lead the Sunday Street Parade. Selflessly she posed and autographed countless photos before addressing the crowds, motivating everyone to give 150% in their efforts to achieve their dreams. Testimony to her message is that along her path she was crowned Miss Slow Festival in 2011.
So, on Sunday evening, with the hymns of the choir still echoing through my mind and the last tent on the village green dismantled and packed away, I drove home. The sun had set and the Outeniqua Mountains were crystal clear along the horizon and contentment descended on me as I reflected that, this, like every other Slow Festival with all the wonderful activities for the weekend, had been a special holiday that catered for an escape from daily living and that it truly IS a star in the calendar of events in the Garden Route.
Whilst most of the village is still high on the Slow Festival Buzz, it should be noted that there is every danger that this year may have been the last.
At the closing ceremony on Sunday, organiser Amanda Dixon was upfront about the festival’s future. She explained how, thanks to the tireless work of the committee and the enthusiastic input of the community and local businesses, the Slow Festival had shown very healthy growth over the last eight years to become the wonderful event that the locals and visitors enjoy, despite having ‘shoe-string’ funding.
“But with growth comes an increase in overheads,” she said, “And our Slow Festival is now in a place where aligning with a corporate sponsor is the only way forward.” Anyone who has ideas, or better yet contacts with potential corporate sponsors should please email Amanda on firstname.lastname@example.org.