Victoria rules


Prince Charles has been getting attention further north, but in Oamaru this weekend it’s his great, great (do I need some more greats?) granny who  rules as the town  celebrates its Victorian heritage.

Charles Dickens is the them of this year’s celebrations which began on Wednesday.

Activities and events today include a vintage car swap meet, a street parade, a military black powder camp, high tea at Pen-y-bryn Lodge, Widow Corney’s Workhouse Shindig and Charles Dickens Performs A Christmas Carol.

Tomorrow celebrations conclude with the Victorian fete from 10am.

A day jam-packed with superb entertainment, dozens of stalls showcasing their unique and individual wares, exquisite Victorian costume, competitions to test strength and skill, street performers and children’s entertainment around every corner with food stalls and refreshments to whet every appetite. It has to be experienced to be believed.

Highlights this year will be Beyondsemble, just back from their world tour with their most exciting, energetic and enchanting acoustic music to come out of NZ in recent times. From gypsy to jazz, rocksteady to Celtic, Congo to bluegrass and beyond. Music to move you and make you move. With a strong improvisational edge, Beyondsemble perform an incredible mix of styles sourced from all over the world as well as their own original compositions.

And the incongruous Bikes for Fun. Over seventy bikes and scooters for the young and the young at heart which defy gravity and any thoughts of Victorian staidness! Fabulous fun!

Legend, humour and fiction surround the origins of Wellington perfumery Fragrifert which is coming to Oamaru for the Celebrations. But the fragrances are real and Fragrifert (pronounced frah-gree-fair) will delight visitors with live performances in the Harbour Street theatrette.

Watch out for Fagin and his mischievous band of rascals – they’ll burst into song and instead of picking your pocket, might leave a treat for you! You too could dress up as your favourite Dickens’ character and join in all the fun of the Fair!

The  celebrations started a couple of decades ago by a small group of enthusiasts  who wanted to showcase Oamaru’s Victorian heritage.

They’re now an annual fixture which attracts visitors from around New Zealand and further afield.

You can download a full programme here.

2012 places to go


The Chicago Tribune has a list of places to go by month in 2012 .

There among the big events from the Olympics to a champagne cork shoot-off is:


14-18: Oamaru, New Zealand — Oamaru Victorian Heritage Celebrations. Penny Farthing Bicycle Races set the tone for townwide merriment.

There is a lot more to the celebrations than Penny Farthing races. Other activities include the annual swaggers and servants dance, a Victorian garden party, a heritage ball, and the Victorian fete.

Each year more locals and visitors embrace the theme and garb themselves in Victorian clothes and each year the celebrations get better.

At the fete


The Queen of Victorian Oamaru with one of her foot soldiers and the Mayor and Mayoress.

Morris dancing.

A day at the races


North Otago is celebrating its Victorian Heritage this week.

Most people who work in the historic precinct dress up to the Victorian theme all the time. During heritage celebrations many locals and visitors also don the clothes our earliest European settlers wore.

Yesterday we spent a very enjoyable afternoon at the gala race day.

Boru provided live music:

The Queen’s guard took a break from guarding to chat to visitors:

While the Queen herself took part in, and won, a celebrity race:


We were treated to fine food from Sally Anne of Fat Sally’s and Portside fame, had  lots of laughs and I made an $8 profit from betting.

Today the historic precinct hosts the annual Victorian Fete and World Stone Sawing championships.

We are amused . .


. . . we are also entertained and amazed by the talent and energy the North Otago community displays in the District’s annual Victorian heritage celebrations.

The programme  includes live theatre, the national penny farthing championships a servants and swaggers dance for the downstairs  folk,  a ball for those upstairs and the annual fete a feature of which is the world stone sawing championships.

The second annual Steampunk: tomorrow as it used to be exhibition at the Forrester Gallery is an undoubted highlight.

Join us in a journey to a distant place and time. A world styled with brass, copper and leather. A steam-powered world of blimps, balloons and coal smoke darkened skies, a magical, miraculous, mechanical world of cogs, levers, wheels clocks and glass gauges. A world that is full of mad and quirky technology. A place where Jules Verne and Monty Python might meet to share a port wine and smoke a pipe at home together . . .

I had a quick look round the gallery yesterday and will return for the long, lingering visit  required to do justice to the exhibits.

Each year more people get in to the spirit of the celebrations by dressing in Victorian clothes.

If you’re anywhere near North Otago, the celebrations provide a very good reason to visit this weekend.

Victorian Fete


Oamaru’s Victorian Heritage celebrations began 19 years ago with a fete in the historic precinct organised by a few volunteers.

It’s grown into the Waitaki District’s biggest annual event run over several days, culminating in the fete which attracts thousands of people. . .

. . . some of whom are in to Morris dancing . . .

. . . others of a more competitive nature come to claim the title in the world stone sawing championships:

(In case you’re wondering why the Oamaru hosts the world championships, it’s the only place which holds them).

Another march for democracy


While assorted groups marched for democracy in Auckland, people were marching in Oamaru for a similar cause:

They were part of the street parade in the Victorian Heritage Celebrations.

Waitaki Mayor, Alec Fmailton, Mayoress Heather, the Queen of Victorian Oamaru and celebration committee chair, Sally Hope travelled by horse drawn carriage:

Also on parade, though not necessarily in support of votes for women were foot soldiers of Alf’s Imperial Army:

Emergency services were represented with an ambulance . . .

. . . a fire engine  . . .

. . . and a policeman:

There was steam power . . .

. . . and pedal power:

And if Donna Demente’s car was a few decades ahead of the Victorian era, what it lacked in historical authenticity was more than compensated for by its artistry:

Were those the days?


The ball was leather, the goal posts were freshly felled trees, the shorts were longer and the referee, Bruce Rowland,  wore street clothes:

It was rugby as it used to be, played under 1905 rules in uniforms of the era as part of Oamaru’s Victorian Heritage celebrations.

It attracted a large crowd of spectators and St John ambulance volunteers were on hand to deal with the injured:

The referee summoned the police, who were also attired in Victorian uniforms, to deal with an unruly player but behaviour on and off the field was generally seemly.

Some of the players were more oldie than golden but anything they lacked in youth was more than compensated for by enthusiasm.

The ODT’ reported: long on shorts and short on breath.

Heart of stone


Two weeks ago large blocks of Oamaru Stone were delivered to Takaro Park.

Day by day they’ve been transformed by artists taking part in the stone carving symposium which is part of the Oamaru Victorian Heritage Celebrations.


The sculptures are for sale during a silent auction which takes palce this weekend.



Sport talk


Last week I didn’t know the All Whites were playing a test to decide if they got to the World Cup or not.

Nor did I know about the NZ Match racing champs and that Tiger Woods was playing golf in Melbourne.

You’re welcome to educate me on what’s happened in sport since then or will be happening in the coming week.

My attention will be on Victorian sports – the national penny farthing championships tomorrow and the world stone sawing championships on Sunday – all part of Oamaru’s Victorian heritage celebrations.

Cavorting with the Victorian domestic goddess


An appointment with the Victorian domestic goddess is one of the sell-out performances at Oamaru’s annual Victorian Heritage celebrations.

Last night we were invited to cavort with her and promised an evening of frivolity and pleasure should we do so.

The cavorting was of a decorous nature although there were some delightful double entendres in the badinage between the goddess and her friends.

We also learned the intricacies of Victorian sporting behaviour, vicariously enjoyed a seaside picnic with culinary dishes to delight any gentleman and experienced social behaviours and amusements in a colonial settlement.

We were given the option of sherry or lemon barley water as we entered. The evening finished with a supper of Victorian delicacies and we were sent home with a Cyclopedia of Valuable Recipes.

This treasure house of useful knowledge for the wants of everyday life includes instructions on how to make smelling salts, Spiced Rose Water for a Casting Bottle and Most Delicate Cucumber Sandwiches.

There’s races . . . Updated


There’s races and there’s the heritage race day which opened Oamaru’s annual Victorian heritage celebrations.

Alf’s Imperial Army stood guard over the official party as Celebration committee chair, Sally Hope,  welcomed the crowd:

There were horses and sulkies – full size with professional jockeys and ponies with young drivers.

The celebrity celebrity race featured Waitaki Mayor Alec Familton, the Wizard, The Queen of Victorian Oamaru and North Otago rugby player Ross Hay, paired with reinsmen.

There was also a race for penny farthings:

Many of the race goers dressed in Victorian finery, some of whom competed for the fashion in the field awards.

The Queen declared the celebrations open with cut-glass vowels and was still smiling sweetly, loyal guardsman at her side, at the end of the day:

The ODT coverage of the day is here.

The heritage celebrations started modestly with a small fete 19 years ago and are now the biggest annual event in the Waitaki District.

This year’s programme includes a Swaggers and servants dance, a ball, the national penny farthing championships and the world stone sawing championships. Celebrations conclude on Sunday with a Victorian fete.

UPDATE: TV3 was at the races too with words and video.

Racing start to Victorian Heritage Celebrations


Forget Royal Ascot and the Melbourne Cup, the not-to-be-missed event of this year’s racing calendar is taking place in Oamaru.

The opening of the annual Victorian Heritage Celebrations will be a combined celebration with the Oamaru Harness Club to mark its 100th anniversary.

dairy 10007

A village green atmosphere will be created at the race course for the twilight race meeting with mini-marquees erected for businesses and the public encouraged to bring a picnic lunch, have a punt, and soak up the atmosphere.

One of the day’s ‘heritage’ features will be an invited drivers race.

In addition to some fine harness racing action, a unique array of events has been planned including the release of 100 homing pigeons to mark the Club’s centennial; a dual Sulky Celebrity Race featuring guests including Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean, Mayor Alex Familton and The Wizard; a penny farthing stunt rider and sprint races; a Saddle Pace and a Horse & Carriage Parade.

Victorian dress is encouraged but not required. Racegoers who do dress in period costume will be able to enter  the Victorian Fashion in the Fields competition with attractive prizes. Away from the track and live entertainment, a village tipster and full dining, bar and tote facilities will form part of a grand day out.

The twilight meeting starts at 2.30pm on Wednesday November 18.

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