Does it seem unbelievable that it's already March in the year 2019? And what about the fact it appears Whanganui is gaining a reputation for being cool?
At a meeting out of town this week, I met someone who was a Whanganui fan. No connections – they had just recently discovered all the good things about this wonderful town. And they're not wrong.
The Masters Games was a raging success, the Vintage Weekend huge, Opera Week incredible, and last night our first riverside lantern festival. Next, our iconic Artists Open Studios weekends are coming up.
It's also the little things coming together in Whanganui to create a whole that is truly greater than the sum of its parts. One of my favourite new features is the painting down the alleyway beside George's takeaways in the bottom of the Avenue. And we have more murals to come.
The once-vacant land opposite the Rutland now has a pop up container café for coffee and an amazing burger and donut place in Slim's. There's a shaded area for lounging around with bean bags and pallet furniture, plus a help-yourself community garden.
Downtown, the conversation starter spot outside Kebabholik on Victoria Ave has had art added to it, and the St Hill Street shared cycle pathway is looking good. Test it out on Sunday by taking part in the Frocks on Bikes event starting 1.30pm at the Women's Network. Dress up in your finest frock, suit or superhero costume and join in a fun adventure around town. All wheels without engines welcome including e-bikes, scooters, skateboards, rollerskates, trikes, wheelchairs and even a classic bicycle.
To risk naming but a few of my favs, the expansion at Monaghan's barber looks like it belongs in a major city. The new expanded venue for Space Gallery on Taupo Quay is spacious and fresh, set up perfectly for exhibitions and events. The specialist pens and ink shop, Inkt, offers something special. The hipster café, open only on Friday and Saturdays, Article has a mix of carefully curated second hand clothes, local art and affordable tea and coffee.
Then there's our music scene. The first Friday of the month is the Whanganui Musicians Club at the old Savage Club hall, where you can BYO food, drink, dessert and sharing with neighbours is encouraged. This Sunday there's the Pauls Road annual fundraiser event if you prefer an outdoor music scene (likely to be in the sun), and next Friday Space Gallery is hosting an awesome duo as part of La Fiesta. Or check out Lucky Bar anytime for the epitome of cool and a diverse range of music.
Every Saturday, our River Traders Market just buzzes with people, good food, fresh local produce, interesting handmade gifts, a giant chess board, buskers and more.
Our museum is reopening this month. And Sarjeant Gallery in the future. Plus progressive culture is available via Confluence's Thoughtful Thursdays series of documentaries and films – find out more via their Facebook page.
We have people developing upstairs apartments in our character-filled heritage buildings. And it's not just due to the increased demand for rental accommodation – it's because people are realising they can have a taste of the stylish inner city living with all the benefits of provincial New Zealand.
We're a friendly lot, with many generous people who help create this atmosphere, which is why the recent loss of two of our outstanding civic leaders is so sad. Sue Westwood and Ray Stevens were both recognised for their contributions while they were alive, but were still giving much to our community and are gone too soon. My condolences to their families and friends.
So get yourself out in Whanganui this weekend, whether it's joining me at the Castlecliff beach cleanup, working your way through the crepe flavours at the market, watching a special screening of a doco at Confluence tonight, or decorating your cycle helmet for a Sunday fun ride. We're the best ambassadors for our home town – get in behind it.
Nicola Patrick is a councillor at Horizons Regional Council, works for Te Kaahui o Rauru and leads a new social enterprise hub, Thrive Whanganui. A mum of two boys, she has a science degree and is a Green Party member.