A host of festivals and events over the past weekend in the Overstrand have set the scene for what is expected to be a bumper summer season.
“The combination of music, wine, food and sports events, together with displays by the whales in the bay, kept everyone entertained and not even the rainy weather on Sunday could deter people from being part of the action,” said Cape Whale Coast Tourism Manager, Frieda Lloyd.
According to her, several international groups, including representatives from a whale festival in America and a Brazilian media crew, came to observe and report on what Hermanus had to offer.
Accommodation establishments were filled to capacity and several indicated that they achieved their best occupation rates over the last two weeks, since the end of the previous summer season. Several tourists looking to book accommodation in Hermanus this past weekend could only be accommodated in neighbouring towns.
The mix of events and festivals included the 28th annual Hermanus Whale Festival, the Hermanus Wine and Food Festival, the GetSavvi Walker Bay 7s, the Ubumnandi Music Festival and the Build It 7s Rugby Festival.
Jeanette du Toit, the organiser of the Whale Festival, said that although this year’s festival had its challenges, the vibe in town was positively electric and visitors had a wide choice of activities and stalls to choose from.
“This year the Eco-Marine Tent was exceptionally busy and afforded visitors the opportunity to learn more about our ecosystems along with the challenges we face in preserving our unique natural environment for future generations. As the only eco-marine festival in the country, our commitment to the environment was illustrated by the tremendous job our cleaners did this year. Several visitors and locals commented on how clean the festival area was kept. The municipality must also be commended for their hard work in keeping the bins clean and removing refuse bags as fast as possible.”
Du Toit said the rainy weather had an impact on the number of people who attended the festival this year. “Last year we had approximately 100 000 people attending over the three days. I am still waiting on confirmation of the final figures, but I can safely say that the number of visitors was around 80 000, with most of the people attending on Saturday.”
Weekend sets scene for summer season
According to the municipality, the highest count of vehicles coming into Hermanus on Friday 27 September was between 18:00 and 19:00 (844 cars); on Saturday the highest count was 780 between 13:00 and 14:00; and on Sunday the highest incoming count was 440 between 13:00 and 14:00. On Sunday, which also marked the end of the short school holiday, the highest number of outgoing vehicles was 860 between 15:00 and 16:00. This led to huge traffic volumes on the N2 towards Cape Town, with many motorists experiencing delays due to traffic jams, especially along Sir Lowry’s Pass. At the start of the holiday on 20 September, 850 vehicles entering Hermanus were counted between 18:30 and 19:30.
Traffic officials said no accidents resulting in fatalities were recorded on roads in the Overstrand during the weekend. Du Toit said there were also no serious incidents of crime reported, despite the large number of people in Hermanus on Saturday. “We have to thank local Law Enforcement and SAPS for a sterling job. There was continuous visible policing by foot and mounted patrols that made it difficult for criminals to operate.
“We did see an increase in the number of lost children, but in most cases, they were locals who came to the festival unsupervised by adults. There were also incidents where traders set up shop illegally, mainly on sidewalks and areas around parks – but apart from this we feel that the festival was once again a huge success.
Gideon Serfontein, chair of the Hermanus Business Chamber, said their members support the Whale Festival, as it is part of what the region has to offer. “This year’s festival brought much welcomed business to town, which in turn led to positive energy that can only help us in preparing for the summer season. We appreciate the efforts by the authorities and organisers to keep the festivities orderly and clean. We do think it is important to review our planning for the 2020 festival and as a community to take the best from the past and combine it with fresh ideas for the future. It has been and should remain an important event on the Overstrand tourism calendar,” he said.
Clinton Lerm, chair of the Whale Coast Business and Community Forum, said they are hopeful that this past weekend will set the scene for the upcoming summer season. “I am confident that we are slowly recovering from the setbacks we had in 2018. Weekends like this help in creating stability in our town and allowing all the communities to work together to help grow our economy.”
Ulla du Toit of the Wine Village, which organises the annual Wine and Food Festival, said the popularity of this year’s festival took everyone by surprise. “We were astounded by the number of people who visited the festival and all the vendors indicated that they did very brisk trade. We are thankful to the local community who support us every year and who assists us in drawing people to our region and introducing them to all the culinary, beer, gin and wine offerings of our region.”
Siyabulela Notwala, organiser of the Ubumnandi Festival that was held on the Mount Pleasant sports ground, said the feedback on the festival has been overwhelmingly positive. “There were many new challenges to face by hosting the event at a new venue. And although we did not break even financially, we are excited by the feedback from the different communities. We have already received requests to host the event over two days in order to make it one of the largest and best cultural music events in the region. We will certainly consider that and with the help of our community, I am sure that next year we will be better and bigger than ever before,” he said.
Bianca le Roux, organiser of the GetSavvi Walker Bay 7s, said the participation in this sporting tournament grew by 100% since last year, with more than 1 000 athletes taking part. “We had teams from all over the country and even a couple of international teams that participated. We are overjoyed by the result and we look forward to growing the festival next year, when we’ll be adding beach volleyball to the mix.”