Ranfurly Art Deco Party Weekend

In Central Otago the drive alone is thrilling due to the fabulous scenery but to get the most out of it go to the Art Deco Weekend in Ranfurly or Cavalcade

It has been a summer of mixed routes and a variety of destinations. As one may imagine, by virtue of the fact we are on the road constantly, a great deal of New Zealand has been covered several times. We made it a point to be in Ranfurly the week of the Rural Art Deco Weekend and were so glad we made that decision.

The weekend was marvelous beginning with the usually grand Maniototo weather.
The Ranfurly population of 957 swelled to bursting with locals and visitors alike dressed in the art deco theme and motoring along in fantastic automobiles of the era.

The history of the Art Deco buildings began in a re-building of the town in the early 1930’s. In 1999 the Ranfurly community, headed by Edna McAtamney, began the process of developing the town into a Rural Art Deco theme. It is a small town with a big identity now thanks to the earlier initiative. Thank you Edna, and all those who have been there, for all those energetic years.

I find it wonderful when a town closes down its entire main street and turns it into a giant party. There was also a very large group of marathon runners on the RailTrail that passes through town. The RailTrail opened in 2000 and is maintained by DoC for all walkers, mountain bikers and occasionally horse riders. It is an improved site that once was occupied by the railway that brought the gold miners to Central Otago from Dunedin now a great new track for anyone wishing to have a go. You can involve yourself in as little or as much as you like along its length. Have a look at their website at www.otagocentralrailtrail.co.nz for more information.

We learned while in Ranfurly the famous Cavalcade was to end just down the road at Patearoa the following weekend. Now this was an event we had heard a lot about so made it a point to be there for the grand finale of their trip. Talk about a thrill watching over 500 individuals who had just spent an arduous time following the old gold trails throughout Otago and northern Southland in a re-enactment of the early pioneers walking, riding horses and driving wagons and carts. They all finished at Patearoa in a long parade that ended at the grounds set aside for their welcome and the evening’s party. It was like stepping back in time to watch the people involved pass by with a proud wave and very satisfied smile. They certainly deserved the praise and welcome they received. The Cavalcade is an annual event.

I met Kay Dundass at the Cavalcade and she invited us to visit the Museum at Naseby. Kay has had a large part in promoting the town and especially the Museum. On Sunday when we got there she was at the Museum where we were given a personal and most fascinating tour. What a history! Naseby was once the heart of gold mining in the region. It is a most wonderful town to visit and stroll around. The houses have been refurbished to exemplify the town’s historic past.
If you have a need to learn a family genealogy that was a part of this region Kay is the one to contact.

We also had the pleasure of stopping by the newly refurbished Royal Hotel and received a personal tour through by Christopher Spears who introduced himself as the owner’s partner. They have spent a great deal of time bringing this building back to the way it was in the beginning. Sunday evening it was packed with locals and visitors alike enjoying a real pub evening. This is a town and a place we will definitely go out of our way to enjoy again. I recommend you do the same. Check out www.naseby.co.nz.

Last year we took the drive over Dansy’s Pass to Naseby from Duntroon and noticed the Dansy’s Pass Coach Inn when we came through but didn’t take the time to stop so this time we drove the 16kms from Naseby and had a good look. Built in 1862 it still appears as if it is almost the same today and well worth a drive out to experience.

When in the area take the short drive to St. Bathans to visit the Hotel and the Blue Lake. We have stayed overnight at their expansive Domain outside of town. To continue the drive around the region continue on to have a look at Ophir assuming you began your tour from the north coming from Palmerston turnoff on Route One or maybe the road from outside Dunedin through Middlemarch.

The whole trip is exhilarating. Great place to take your campervan for a spin. You may want to extend your trip along the entire Otago Goldfields Heritage Trail that includes the route from Alexandra through Roxburgh and Lawrence back to Milton or go from Alexandra on to Cromwell continuing to Glenorchy, Queenstown, Arrowtown and Wanaka. 140 years ago the hills began ringing with the sounds of gold recovery and thousands descended upon this region to get rich. I am sure many Kiwi’s can trace their family’s history to these origins. Still gold being discovered by the way.

Because of the climate many of the old buildings still stand and add a dimension of understanding to how the early pioneers existed. Don’t miss this area in your travels and try to do it so you can enjoy the Ranfurly Festival and, best of all, the Cavalcade.

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