Get Out Of The Ghetto | Issue 26

Get Out Of The Ghetto | Issue 26

Alexandra Blossom Festival

The Alexandra Blossom festival, an annual springtime kaleidoscope of small-town New Zealand goodness, is a Dunedin bucket list must-do escape. Held at the end of each September, when Central Otago’s blossoms are in full vernal splendour, the Festival is stretched over several weeks but culminates in a Saturday parade down the town’s main street.

Anyone who is anyone (just everyone really) is involved. Local businesses festoon their shop windows with crepe paper blossoms. Schools, foundations and sponsors enter great 4WD-drawn floats, thematically decorated and topped by a local Blossom Queen candidate doing her best regal wave. Every pipe band south of Ashburton makes an appearance, competing for an annual cup. Local gymnastic lasses cartwheel down the road. The Police are out in force, trying to stamp out the under-age drinking (mostly by Gorons who make the annual jaunt a rite of passage) and catch those who have indulged in too much Benger Gold cider at the Showgrounds. Kids eat those mini donuts, or fluorescent shaved ice, then throw it all up after a turn on the fairground rides. The Blossom Queen candidates, after weeks of community luncheons, photo shoots and public appearances, are finally judged, with the Queen and Princess crowned in the afternoon.

The Blossom Festival is a big deal in Alexandra. The blokes at Contact Energy’s Clyde Dam were folding crepe-paper flowers on their smokos for weeks. On game day, everyone is up at dawn to put the finishing touches on the all-important float. This year, unprecedented controversy erupted when Life is Precious created a float – a giant, nut-brown replica of a 12-week old foetus cradled in two rather creepy giant hands – and the Festival was forced to impose its first-ever ban on an entry. Not the time or place, sorry.

There’s the Round-the-Clock race on Friday night, where anything goes: relay teams consist of Labradors, horses, mountain-bikers and runners who forge the Clyde river, zip up the thyme-covered hill and scramble down the lunar landscape rock-face for everlasting community glory. On Saturday is the opening night of that year’s musical. This year it’s The Buddy Holly Story, featuring the dashing local optometrist, Hunter Hill, as the main man.

There are two art exhibitions, a display of quilts, a bowls tournament and even a drag race. You can buy scarves or stone bake-ware, and drink beer or great coffee. You’ll meet new people and watch friends catch up who haven’t seen each other since the last Blossy. It’s heart-warming stuff. Enjoy.

Get there: by car or by bus. Alex is around two and a half hours’ drive from Dunedin. Stop in Roxburgh for a Jimmy’s pie on the way.

Do: stay the weekend and get into the Blossy spirit.

Don’t: forget your sunscreen. Summer starts early in Central.

Eat: at the Festival – anything made by local deli The Fridge. Otherwise, eat at the Courthouse café.
This article first appeared in Issue 26, 2013.
Posted 4:26pm Sunday 6th October 2013 by Phoebe Harrop.