The Martinborough Fair - March 4
As far as markets go, the Martinborough Fair must be one of New Zealand’s prettiest and most popular.
Held annually on the first Saturdays of February and March, visitors to the wine village of Martinborough can spend hours fossicking between the 450 stalls that radiate out from the Town Square. Beautiful handmade clothing, upcycled creations and vintage wares can be bought as well as fresh local produce and gourmet foods. The Rotary Martinborough Fairs were the brainchild of members of the Greytown Rotary Club and in 1977 the first fairs were staged in Martinborough with just 35 stalls. The basic philosophy behind the Fairs has changed little since their inception – with the objective to give craftspeople a chance to display and sell their wares whilst simultaneously providing the Rotary Club of South Wairarapa with funds to give to charities. Today, such is the reputation of the Fairs that demand for stalls exceeds the space available and more than 25,000 people flock to the world-renowned wine growing region in the South Wairarapa. www.martinboroughfair.org.nz
The Golden Shears - March 2-4
Each year Masterton takes centre stage when it hosts the Golden Shears, the world’s premier sheep shearing and woolhandling championship. For three days of high level competition, the Golden Shears attracts both national and international competitors. It’s an exciting event, keeping spectators on the edges of their seats until the last bit of fleece is swept away.
The event was first staged in 1961 and now includes novice, junior, intermediate, senior and open grades. For for the shearers, wool handlers and wool pressers the dream to compete fairly, win their grade and become supreme champion is still the same as it was over 50 years ago. This year’s event will be streamed live with high definition on Golden Shears TV, via YouTube. It’s a great way to view the action if you can’t be there.
Whilst in Masterton it’s a great chance to visit The National Museum of Sheep and Shearing on Dixon St. This offers visitors a realistic look into an important part of New Zealand’s pioneering history, tracing sheep farming in New Zealand and offering a taste of what a shearer’s life in the 19th and 20th centuries would’ve been like. It also tracks how shearing has evolved into an international sport and our top shearers into elite athletes.
The Wairarapa Wines Harvest Festival - March 11
Town meets country at this wonderful relaxed wine and food festival held in the wine growing region of Dakins Road. Gladstone.
The Wairarapa Wines Harvest Festival has a reputation as a high quality annual event showcasing sensational wines and food from throughout the Wairarapa region. The Festival is held at the beautiful, sheltered riverside setting locally known as ‘The Cliffs’ on the banks of the Ruamahanga River, with its remoteness and vineyard setting adding to its unique appeal. Festival goers can relax in the one location listening to live music while vineyards are paired with regional restaurants producing outstanding food.
Visitors to the Festival have the opportunity to sample wines from not only the larger, better known wineries but also from some of the smaller boutique wineries in the region. In keeping with the informality of the event visitors will also have the opportunity to meet the winemakers from the vineyards involved, giving them an insight into the wide variety and styles of wine available in the region.
The restaurants on the other hand will focus on presenting some of the great local food and produce that the Wairarapa has to offer - Rabbit Pie, Goats Meat Brochette, Ngawi Cod & Crayfish Cakes, Venison Burgers and Wairarapa Wild Pork & Pistachio Terrine are just some of the delicacies that have featured on previous menus.
Castlepoint Beach Horse Races - March 11
Each year, favourable beach conditions permitting, Castlepoint (a 50 minute drive from Masterton) hosts its annual beach horse races, which date back to 1872. In recent times they’ve become a unique family day out with the emphasis on entertainment and picnicking.
Held each March, with the date decided by the best Saturday afternoon low tide, the event attracts a mixture of professional and casual jockeys who contest up to eight races held along the main beach. The prestigious Castlepoint Cup Open is always run when the tide is at its lowest and provides great excitement for the thousands of people who line the settlement’s sea wall or sit on the front lawns of the seaside baches. Betting is allowed under an equalisator system meaning punters are randomly drawn a horse after buying a $2 ticket.
It’s not unusual to see the usually quiet seaside settlement bustling with people carrying umbrellas, picnic hampers, deck chairs and chilly-bins all enjoying the day and the spectacular vista which includes the Castlepoint lighthouse, the imposing limestone rock formations and stunning lagoon. There are also fun events for children in between the horse races such as a three-legged race and sack race.
Round the Vines - March 19
Held each March in the wine village of Martinborough, this 10km or 21km walking or running event sees entrants pass through vineyards and along quiet country roads that are otherwise inaccessible. Themed drink stations throughout the course feature live music as well as samples of local wines for those who have a more relaxed approach to the day! This fun day out is an annual fundraiser for Martinborough School. www.roundthevines.org.nz
The Vintage Aviator Flying weekends
The memory of World War One flight will be kept alive in the Wairarapa this autumn thanks to The Vintage Aviator’s monthly flying weekends.
Gene de Marco, general manager and chief pilot of The Vintage Aviator Ltd (TVAL), says part of the collection of rare WWI aircraft based at Masterton’s Hood Aerodrome will take to the skies the last weekends of March and April. He says the flying weekends provide a great opportunity for the public to see the collection in the air, while allowing the pilots to practise operating these war machines. It will also enable people of all ages to see aircraft such as an original RAF BE.2 up close and to meet the pilots.
Outside of flying times, visitors will be able to take a guided tour through TVAL hangar at Hood Aerodrome and learn the amazing military stories associated with each aircraft.
“When we bring people through the hangar, we talk to them about the airplanes and it’s not always about the performance, how high they go, how fast they go or how long they stay up. It’s about the stories of these young men, young kids who flew a plane like this,” says Mr de Marco.
“The war was fought 12 months out of the year and at tremendous altitude. Sometimes these airplanes climbed 15,000 to 20,000 feet and it’s bitterly cold up there. So everything from the leather flying gloves, the helmet, the goggles … we try to tell that story too.”
In addition to the monthly flying weekends, some of the TVAL aircraft will be involved in February’s Wings Over Wairarapa Air Festival also being held at Hood Aerodrome.
Flying scheduled from 10.00am–12.00pm and 2.00pm–4.00pm Saturday and Sunday, with a Saturday only option of 6.00pm–8.00pm if flying that day has been held up with weather.
Wairarapa Balloon Festival - April 13–17
High Kitty, the lucky charm of hot air, is one of two special-shaped hot air balloons to take to the skies during the 2017 Wairarapa Balloon Festival. The 33 metre tall gigantic balloon will travel down-under from her home in Dallas Texas, USA to New Zealand to attend the Festival being held across the region over Easter weekend. It will be High Kitty’s first outing in New Zealand skies and she will be joined by 24 other hot air balloons, including a second special-shaped balloon which is yet to be announced.
Festival Organiser Robyn Cherry-Campbell says High Kitty will be a huge drawcard for festival-goers and visitors to the Wairarapa over the Easter weekend.
“This enormous, special-shaped balloon is going to excite the crowd,” says Ms Cherry-Campbell. “High Kitty will certainly get noticed as it will be hard to miss the bright pink 33 metre ‘Manei-neko’ (Japanese for beckoning cat) and she’ll capture the imagination of everyone!”
The 2017 Festival programme features a week of balloon lift-offs and family-fun entertainment at various venues throughout the region, including a ‘Dawn Patrol’ when the balloons will lift off in the dark before sunrise. It will feature the popular Night Glow on Friday 14th April at Solway Showgrounds, where family entertainment is provided and tethered balloons light up the night sky. More information at: www.nzballoons.co.nz
Booktown Featherston May 12–14
Booktown is an annual event held in Featherston celebrating everything to do with books, writers and reading. A full three-day programme includes writing workshops, poetry readings, talks by leading authors and illustrators, theatre performances and a book fair including stalls with rare and second hand books. There are also events specifically for children. www.booktown.org.nz