A weekly round-up of news snippets, events and oddities from the Bay of Islands and around the Mid North

Up to 2000 people are expected to groove to Kiwi roots reggae band The Black Seeds on Paihia's Village Green this Saturday.

They will be joined by DDF Dance Studios, Kerikeri High School Jazz Band, Inertia and Strangely Arousing, the winner of Smokefree Pacifica Beats in 2013.

Organiser Anika West said she expected this year's It! Bay of Islands Food and Wine Festival would be a sell-out, especially given the superb weather forecast and the likelihood competitors in the Coastal Classic race would head to Paihia to unwind after their efforts at sea.

The last tickets were likely to be snapped up on Friday or early Saturday at the gate.

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The festival also offers a range of Northland food and wine. Treats lined up this year include whitebait fritters, salt and pepper calamari, prawn kebabs and Thai fishcakes.

Festival-goers will be able to compete in kina-sucking, pie-eating and oyster-shucking contests. An expanded children's area will boast a magician, face painting and a hip-hop dance workshops.

Past headline acts have included Supergroove, Dave Dobbyn and the Exponents.


Art studios open doors

Following last year's success the Kerikeri Open Art Studios Trail (Koast) is back again this Labour Weekend with 48 artists showing off their work at 33 venues around town.

What sets Koast apart from other art shows is that visitors get to see the work and meet the artists in their studios, often in their own homes. It was inspired by a Whangarei Heads arts trail and first held last year when about 500 people went studio-hopping.

Instigator Ann Winship said 10 new artists had joined the trail this year, working in everything from painting to kaleidoscope making.

Carver Hugh McKechnie will again be taking part in the Kerikeri Open Art Studios Trail over Labour Weekend.
Carver Hugh McKechnie will again be taking part in the Kerikeri Open Art Studios Trail over Labour Weekend.

The trail included guest artists Andy Morrison from Mangonui (reclaimed wood carving), Maungatapere couple Peter Brammer (steel sculpture) and Julie Cromwell (ceramics), and Auckland's Allie Snow (embroidery art).

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This year's "student of merit" is mixed media artist Jan Molloy-Wolt, who moved to Kerikeri after the Christchurch earthquakes and is completing an applied arts degree at NorthTec.

The guide booklet costs $5 but following the trail is free. The guide is available at Paper Plus in Kerikeri, Village Books in Waipapa, the Whangarei i-Site and participating studios. Studios are open from 10am-5pm Saturday-Monday.


And the winner is ...

The winner of last week's Food at Wharepuke giveaway is Peter Heath of Kerikeri.

Restaurant manager Diane Langman drew the winner at random from just under 30 entries from as far away as Whangarei. If we hadn't promised a random draw we would have been tempted to give the $100 voucher to Catherine for her poignant email telling us she and her hubbie had only been out twice at night without the kids, ever; or to the generous Jo, who promised, if she won, to give the voucher to her "awesome mum".

The giveaway celebrated Food at Wharepuke making it into this year's Silver Fern Farms Premier Selection Awards on the strength of chef Colin Ashton's dish of venison loin with pumpkin and buffalo ricotta gnocchi, beetroot puree and chocolate jus.

Sixty restaurants are in the running with the winner due to be announced in February. Food at Wharepuke, on Kerikeri Rd, is the only Northland restaurant in the contest.


Big balls

Here at Bay News Bites Labour Weekend means the start of all things summery - the first outdoor festival, the first swim, the first time we're feeling brave enough to try camping again.

Labour Weekend is also time for the legendary Big Balls fishing competition, the subject of intense rivalry between Kerikeri's Homestead Tavern and the Kerikeri RSA since 1996. Up to 60 fishers will compete for $1000 in prizes.

The RSA has won for two years running, as decided by the average of the top 10 snapper, and is hoping to make it a hat trick. Last year's biggest snapper, 12.77kg, was hooked by Adrian Manning of the RSA. The weigh-in is 3-6pm on Saturday and 2-4pm Sunday at the Homestead.

Where's Freddy? The Nightmare on Elm St character was kidnapped from last year's Big Balls billboard.
Where's Freddy? The Nightmare on Elm St character was kidnapped from last year's Big Balls billboard.

The competition is advertised each year with a macabre display outside the Homestead. The star of last year's 3D billboard, Freddie Kruger of Nightmare on Elm St fame, was kidnapped and never seen again (his torso anyway; his legs remained fixed to the billboard).

This year's display features a bandaged soldier (the RSA) and horror film character Chucky wielding a butcher's knife (the Homestead "bad boys").

In case you're wondering, the competition gets its name from the two large wooden spheres which form the trophy. The former bedpost ornaments survived the Homestead fire of 2001 and have the singe marks to prove it.


More fishing

Fisherfolk who don't fancy competing for Big Balls have another option this weekend - a Whangaroa Coastguard fishing contest raising money for a new rescue boat.

With prizes for heaviest snapper, kahawai and kingfish in open, women's and junior divisions, the contest kicks off at 7.30am on Saturday and ends at 3.30pm on Sunday.

HQ for the event will the Whangaroa Sport Fishing Club, which will host lucky draws from 6pm on Saturday and the prizegiving at 6.30pm on Sunday. Call 021 418 193 for more information.

The Coastguard unit needs $800,000 for an 11m, twin-diesel rescue boat to replace its ageing craft. Coastguard Northern region will contribute the bulk of the money but that still leaves locals needing to raise about $180,000. They have less than $30,000 to go.


Garden open day

Gardening and history buffs have a rare chance this weekend to check out one of the country's most historic properties.

The garden at The Retreat, the Pakaraka home of pioneering missionary Henry Williams and his wife Marianne, will be open from 10am-4pm on Sunday.

The property is opposite Holy Trinity Church, just west of Pakaraka Junction on State Highway 1. Visitors are asked to park at the church. Entry is $5; children free.

Henry Williams, who translated the Treaty of Waitangi into Maori, retired to Pakaraka about 1849. He died in 1867 and is buried across the road.


Guardians AGM

The Guardians of the Bay of Islands are holding their AGM this evening at the Scenic Hotel, on the corner of Seaview and MacMurray Rd in Paihia.

The meeting, which starts at 6.30pm, will be followed by a talk by Massey University behavioural ecologist Isabel Castro.

The Guardians are the drivers of Project Island Song, an ambitious plan to restore native wildlife to the eastern Bay of Islands.


Big night in Russell

Competitors in this year's Coastal Classic yacht race from Auckland are expected, wind permitting, to start arriving in Russell by late afternoon on Friday.

The fleet's arrival always heralds a lively night in Russell as each crew crossing the finish line joins the fray in the town's bars. More than 150 boats have registered so far.


Coming up

If you're already thinking ahead to the weekend after Labour Weekend, the Bay has heaps in store. The greenfingered can look forward to Kerikeri Rotary Club's annual Garden Safari; Kerikeri bar La Taza del Diablo is hosting three days of festivities for Mexico's Day of the Dead; and Kawakawa businesses are putting on what is quite possibly the best Halloween celebration for kids in Northland. More next week.


Do you have news or an upcoming event you'd like to see in this column? Send it to us, including your full contact details, to baynews@northernadvocate.co.nz.