Historic Hawke's Bay: Hastings Blossom Festival

By MICHAEL FOWLER'S HISTORIC HAWKE'S BAY

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Hastings' Blossom Festival was first held in 1950.

It was the creation of Greater Hastings, an organisation established initially to provide an Easter attraction (The Highland Games, first held in 1951).

Retailer Harry Poppelwell aptly stated something should be done about the "glorious inactivity" in Hastings. Many, such as Poppelwell, felt Hastings was lacking in post-war community spirit. Poppelwell met with his friend and Hastings Daily Telegraph reporter Ed Culver to plan the formation of an organisation to promote activities in Hastings, which became Greater Hastings.

Hastings Mayor and accountant R D Brown gave his blessing to "bring about a better and brighter Hastings". Greater Hastings' greatest creation would be the Hastings Blossom Festival.

A Blossom Queen contest was added in 1957 to the Blossom Festival. The rules of the contest stated that contestants presenting themselves had to be aged between 18 and 28, unmarried and, among other things, possess "poise, personality, charm, beauty of face and figure, education, voice quality, speaking ability and be in good health."

No swimsuit parade would occur and, as the promotional material stated: "This is not a bathing beauty contest - but a Blossom Festival quest."

At the height of the Blossom festivals in the 1950s, about 60,000 people crammed the streets of Hastings to view the decorated paper crépe floats.

The festival recovered from the infamous, so-called "Blossom Festival riot" in September 1960 and lasted until 1972, when many people had grown tired of the effort required to decorate floats - a process which took place months before the annual September event.

The Blossom festivals were later reinstated and continue with today's parade.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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