Art Deco shop manager Lynda Begley was busy on the phone yesterday - ordering more hats as day one of the five-day Tremains Art Festival got under way.

"They are absolutely the number one item people are buying - they are just going out the door," he said as another large group of people walked into the shop and began scouring the displays.

Other groups also gathered near the foyer as their film shows or guided tours were set to kick off.

"We're feeling it now although it's been a busy build-up all week," she said, adding that the two main ingredients to cope with the happy and colourful deluge which makes up the festival were pretty well taken care of.


"It is the preparation and the ordering of things we need - once that is in place you can get on with it," Mrs Begley said.

The second ingredient was the staff required to cope with an event which is expected to draw in about 40,000 people.

"I can't say enough about the volunteers and I am extremely humbled by them," she said.

"It's everything - there's always a cup of tea there or someone is sweeping something up or helping out wherever they can."

Rick Kibblewhite has been doing his volunteer bit for the trust for the past six years - his wife has put in 10 years.

"It's the whole happy environment - it's the people," Mr Kibblewhite said. "I'll do anything that needs to be done."

On the retail side Mrs Begley has brought in three extra paid staff for the busy days ahead as well as about a dozen extra volunteers. Extra numbers were also being organised on the guided tour front.

Tour numbers in the build-up to the festival had already been high, with some usual tours of 15 or so people being expanded to up to 50. There will be 60 walks and tours catering for thousands of visitors during the festival, with about 70 volunteer guides set to step forward.

"We'll be calling everyone we can in because when they're not walking they will be hosting," tours manager Abby Davies said.

Bookings for events were strong, and Mrs Begley said she was already seeing familiar faces from past festivals popping their heads into the shop.

Hats were the number one sales item as visitors could quickly get into the deco spirit simply by donning one.

Easy to carry souvenirs like posters, coasters, cards, bags, scarves and small figurines were also popular.

Many people bought large items like rugs and figurines and picked them up on the final day as they prepared to go home.

"We've had one man come in already and he bought six lamps and a rug."

Art Deco Trust manager Sally Jackson said everyone was "buzzing" as the festival sparked into life.

It had already attracted the attention of TV3 with a crew from the 7pm Story news show preparing to set up at the Masonic's Emporium on Thursday night.

"Everyone is welcome to come along - you could end up on television," she said.

To officially kick things off a whakatau ceremony to launch the festival took place at 8 this morning at the Ahuriri inner harbour moorings near the Blue Water Hotel.

Hawke's Bay schools were invited along as part of the welcoming powhiri for several sea-borne arrivals, including the waka Te Matau a Maui, a waka ama, and sailing and surf boats.

Members of the Art Deco Trust, mayor Bill Dalton and several Napier City councillors stepped ashore as the festival was officially declared open.