This week, Elena and I are hobnobbing with swing dancers, dodging vintage cars, and wandering the streets of Napier, serenaded by the music of the '30s. Thousands of people converge from all over the country and the world, and almost everyone's in costume! This is Napier's annual Art Deco Weekend, said by some to be one of the top ten best weekend events in the world. At the last minute, Elena and I decided to come up to see this event that's been regularly recommended by many friends, and we've enjoyed every minute of our time here so far!
So what is the Art Deco Weekend? It is an event that celebrates the style, art, music, and architecture of the 1920s and 1930s Art Deco period. A such, people dress in period clothes (or as close as they can, as we did, throw together out of their own modern wardrobes), play and dance to swing music and jazz, drive around vintage automobiles, display and sell period clothing and antiques, and explore this beautiful art deco town. Swing dance and car clubs converge from all over New Zealand; restaurants host Roaring '20s, or Depression '30s-inspired meals; old bicycles and airplanes dot the streets and sky; and you rub shoulders with women wearing lace, fur, and feathers. This is so much more than just a fun day to dress up.
Napier is the primary port city in the Hawkes Bay region of New Zealand, starting as a whaling port, and has transitioned into a Naval port and a major wine-growing hub. In February of 1931, the city was essentially destroyed by a massive earthquake. In the aftermath, the decision was made to rebuild the city entirely in the art Deco style of the time, so buildings all over town were designed with the flourishing ornate details that typify architecture of the period. This annual festival was established to celebrate this "new" identity, and has developed into a world-class weekend well-worth taking part in.
We got into town late Friday night, and wandered through a town center still filled with people dressed to the nines in flapper dresses, boater hats, feathers and furs, and all the glitz and glamour they could pull together. We hadn't quite known what to expect, but were more excited with everything we saw. The mood was pleasant and festive, so after dropping off the bags, we immediately dressed up and went out to a cafe that was still open at 10:00pm to enjoy the atmosphere and lovely warm night. This morning, we got up early, and guided by music drifting through the empty streets, began to explore before the crowds began to flow into town. And boy has it been crowded! We've been to vintage sales, watched a parade of period cars and motorcycles, enjoyed dancing Lindy swing, and drifted into a number of other events. Based on our experience so far this year, we're definitely coming back next year! Pictures to come soon!