Thousands enjoyed a seaside picnic in style at the Art Deco Festival's Gatsby Picnic yesterday afternoon.

Locals and visitors alike set up blankets and marquees for the big afternoon event, which drew more than 3000 people to the lawns between the Napier Soundshell and Tom Parker Fountain.

Retired teachers Riaan Badenhorst and Sarah Gretchen travelled from Auckland for the Art Deco Festival and took part in the Gatsby Picnic for the first time yesterday.

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"We've always wanted to come to the festival and for the first time this year we were free. We definitely wanted to do the picnic.

"I think we're foodies to be honest. We like picnics. It's nice to put things together and do it in a different setting," Ms Gretchen said.

The couple's spread drew great interest from the crowds; a custard and cream sponge cake topped with fresh peaches and strawberries was the centre piece, while a vase of dahlias sat next to fine china donned with meringues and club sandwiches.

Whangaparaoa couple Dion and Kaye Coleman were also at the Gatsby Picnic and entertained those walking by their elegant picnic with games of croquet.

This year was just one of at least 14 Art Deco Festivals the pair had attended with their children and this year's theme was "posh picnic", Mrs Coleman said.

"My husband has got vintage cars and we have a house full of collectibles. There's so much stuff you can't move," she said.

Mr Coleman said they had 220 vintage bikes, seven vintage cars and, most recently, 70-80 vintage bathing suits.

The family most enjoyed sharing what they had with others, he said.

"We love sharing it with everyone else. That's what we've got the croquet here for; for everyone to have a go."

Mr Badenhorst said he was taken aback by the friendly nature of the throngs of people they had encountered during their week-long trip to Hawke's Bay.

"There's so many people who talk to you. Even someone this morning said I looked good in pink. I'll take that as a compliment!."

"We love seeing everybody participating and making such an effort. I think it's amazing that the community can put this together. It is amazing. Hat's off to them. It's such a beautiful event and very, very special," Ms Gretchen said.

Art Deco Trust general manager Shane Gorst said the Gatsby Picnic exceeded his expectations, just as the rest of the festival had.

"A huge focus at the festival this year was really about bringing it back to the community. All of the free events have gone off and exceeded expectations incredibly well."