Festival bigger and better this year

By Liz Wylie

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Attendance numbers at last year's Festival of Cultures highlighted the need for more space.
Photo/Bevan Conley
Attendance numbers at last year's Festival of Cultures highlighted the need for more space. Photo/Bevan Conley

The annual Whanganui Festival of Cultures will be here on Saturday and it is bigger and better than ever before.

This year's festival, on Saturday will take place in Majestic Square, where it has been held for the past five years, but will be expanding to include the Memorial Hall forecourt.

The festival will now have two performance stages hosting a colourful variety of cultural groups between 10.30am and 3.30pm.

Festival organisers say the festival site had to grow to meet demand.

"Last year we had to turn performance groups away or cut their time short," says festival co-ordinator Elise Goodge.

"We didn't want to extend the duration of the event as we felt this was perfect in terms of audience participation so the logical next step was to add a second stage."

The festival, now in its sixth year, has secured renowned Chinese cultural performance troupe the Wellington Chinese Sports and Cultural Centre to headline this year's event.

The centre formed its first lion dance group in 1999 and since then has been asked to perform all over New Zealand as well as competing in international competitions.

A regular fixture at Chinese New Year events in the lower North Island, the troupe comprises Chinese and non-Chinese members ranging in age from 6 to 50.

Accompanied by percussionists, the group will perform two different cultural dances at this year's festival, the dragon and lion dance.

"We are thrilled that the [centre] will be joining us this year," says Ms Goodge.
"Up until now we have had no Chinese cultural representation in the performance segment of the festival.

This year we have the [centre] and the Chinese Association Whanganui Branch performing.
It is wonderful to redress the absence of these cultural forms from previous festivals and bring this remarkable group to Whanganui."

In addition to performers, there will be a range of food and craft stalls representing Whanganui's growing multi-cultural population.

Hindu festival Diwali was celebrated by the Lotus Women's group last Saturday and there will be another Diwali celebration in Whanganui on November 5.

The Festival of Cultures runs from 10.30am to 3.30pm on Saturday at Majestic Square and the Memorial Hall Forecourt or inside the Whanganui War Memorial Centre if wet.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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