Art Deco festival celebrates Napier's origins
28 Jan 2010
Art Deco Weekend, Napier
16 - 21 February, 2010
The vintage cars are cranked and the feather boas dusted off as one of the world’s most unique Art Deco cities - Napier, in New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay region - prepares to celebrate its claim to fame.
Rebuilt from the ruins of a major earthquake in 1931, Napier has one of the most concentrated arrays of "modern" Art Deco, stripped classical and Spanish Mission style buildings of any city in the world.
And every year thousands of enthusiasts gather for Art Deco Weekend - the highlight of a week-long festival of events that turn back the clock to an era of sophistication and elegance.
Dressing in style
Visitors to the popular Hawkes Bay city could be forgiven for thinking they had stepped back in time - during the festival the streets are filled with people in period costume and the roads lined with vintage cars.
Last year more than 25,000 people dressed in their Deco finest for the 21st birthday of the event.
Art Deco Weekend is held annually on the third weekend of February, and organisers say that each year more and more people get into the spirit of the event and turn out in Art Deco attire.
22nd Art Deco Weekend
For almost a week Napier celebrates its heritage in style, and more than 100 different events are scheduled for the 22nd Art Deco festival.
As well as themed events like a Great Gadsby Picnic, concerts, parades, music and dancing in the streets, a period car and air display, ball, wine, food and sports events, the festival also features Art Deco walks and guided tours.
Belles on old bicycles will be seen riding the city’s Marine Parade while blokes and belles in period bathing suits compete for the best 1930s couple sporting the craziest outfits.
Many of the events are free and family orientated, and the atmosphere is filled with the sound of big band jazz and foot-tapping Gadsby-style groups enjoying what is considered the most elegant event of the year.
1931 Napier earthquake
Napier’s Art Deco origins go back to a devastating 7.8 (Richter scale) earthquake on 3 February 1931 that caused geographic upheaval and widespread damage throughout the Hawke's Bay region.
Most of the buildings in the coastal city were flattened, either by the earthquake or the ensuing fires. The town’s water supply had been cut during the quake so there was nothing to fight the fires that ravaged the streets.
However, remarkable community spirit prevailed and the town was almost completely rebuilt in two years.
The style that predominated was art deco. It was not only popular at the time but provided strong reinforced concrete with decoration that would not fall off and injure people as had happened with the Edwardian-style pre-earthquake buildings.
The Art Deco Trust was formed in 1985 to preserve and promote what is now recognised as a world-class collection of Art Deco architecture. The Art Deco Weekend is one way that the Trust brings the Art Deco era to life in a huge community celebration.
Napier - New Zealand’s Art Deco capital
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