Thousands ready for unique festival

By Alexandra Newlove

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Organiser Rachel O'Gorman says this year's Fritter Festival will have shorter queues and more fun. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Organiser Rachel O'Gorman says this year's Fritter Festival will have shorter queues and more fun. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Saturday's Fritter Festival looks set to be high on variety and low on queuing, with the introduction of a cashless payment system.

More than 5000 people are expected through the gates at Toll Stadium for Whangarei's fourth Fritter Festival, featuring offerings from 33 Northland vineyards and eateries. A range of 28 fritters would vie for the title of Best Fritter, judged by celebrity chef Chelsea Winter, presented alongside the New World People's Choice Award.

Caution was advised for anyone looking to try what was being promoted as the country's spiciest fritter: Cafe Jerusalem's vege fritters topped with Fire Dragon Chillies "Dragon Fury" sauce with three varieties of fresh chilli for good measure.

Fritter Festival would be "cashless" this year, with the use of AWOP cards, which could be loaded with money on the day, making paying at individual stalls a lot more efficient. Any money left on the card would be refunded at the end of the day.

Performances from headliners Katchafire, the Jordan Luck Band, Tiki Taane and Auckland's Hipstamatics would be interspersed with sets from local acts Otium, 5K, The Gold Cloaks and The Avenues.

Venues & Events Whangarei's Rachel O'Gorman said the fee paid to the national acts was the only money that went outside the district.

"We have vendors ringing us up from all over the country wanting to have a stall ... But we keep it strictly local," she said.

Organising the festival was a 12-month marathon which started as soon as the gates closed on last year's event.

"Straight after we do a post-event survey where we ask what music people like, where they came from. The whole idea is around creating economic benefit for the district."

Last year's festival experienced an attendance boom up 25 per cent on 2014, injecting $1 million into Whangarei's economy.

As of Wednesday morning, nearly 4000 tickets to this year's event had sold, with at least another 1000 expected to go in the coming days and via door sales - which were more weather dependent. MetService says Saturday should bring showers to Whangarei with a high of 25C.

While the food and wine festival was primarily aimed at adults, a giant waterslide constructed on the north embankment was always a huge hit with younger festival-goers, Ms O'Gorman said. Alcohol consumption would be managed through water at every stall, a red/yellow card system and a "chill out" room for people deemed to need a break from drinking.

- Fritter Festival runs 11am until 7pm at Toll Stadium. Tickets at http://bit.ly/1UeJXvR, Forum North or on the gate.

- Northern Advocate

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