Every year on the last weekend of June, thousands of festinos make their way to the small Sundays River Valley town of Kirkwood for the annual Absa Kirkwood Wildsfees. The Wildsfees, in it's 14th years already, brings some of the biggest names in the Afrikaans music industry to the town and combines it with a weekend of entertainment, activities, food and stalls. Over the weekend in the region of 50 000 people attended the festival with over 20 000 people in the grounds on the Saturday evening.
We weren't planning to go to the festival this year but I got my hands on some tickets on #99 and after a quick call to one of my contacts in town, I found a spot in the backyard of Magnolia Guesthouse to pitch our tent. The weekend was on! The Damselfly was picked up after work and the KidZ from aftercare, the car packed and we were off to the Wildfees. After dropping off all our stuff at Magnolia just after sunset we headed to the festival grounds. The plan was to grab a seat and enjoy the Friday night entertainment, leaving exploring the rest of the festival on Saturday before the main entertainment started late afternoon.
Kirkwood be Kirkwood and late June being winter meant that everybody arrives at the festival prepared for cold. We were no different. Jackets, beanies, blankies, the works.
When we got there the Radio Kalahari Orkes was on stage. I really like a couple of their songs but struggle to sit through a whole CD of theirs. Seeing them on stage though was a totally different story. Wow, pure genius and lots of energy, specially from the only female band member. Love her on stage with her accordion.
The main reason the Damselfly wanted to be there the Friday evening was the fact that her two favorite artists, Jay and Leanie May, were on stage right after each other. They also did their latest song, Naweeklyfie, together which is always a hit.
Singer and actor Izak Davel kept the crowd entertained on the Saturday afternoon both during his performance as well as one of the MC's. I'm sure a couple of ladies in the audience still remember him strutting around in his red speedo on Survivor South Africa a couple of years ago.
Some of the artists on stage over the two days that we were there (we and my wallet were all festivaled out by Saturday night so we gave Sunday a miss). Clockwise from the top left corner - Ian Roberts of Radio Kalahari Orkes, Jay, Snotkop, Nicholas Louw, Elizma Theron and Ray Dylan. I just realized that I never got a pic of Kurt Darren who was one of the main acts on the Saturday evening.
I know the artists on show would all be able to rock an audience doesn't matter if they sing on a school stage, a street corner or from the back of a truck, but the stage and sound played a huge role to make this event such an fantastic experience. The stage with its speakers and lighting stretched over a distance of close to 50 meters and the sound was superb. Kurt Darren even commented how this was the first time in ages that he just walked onto a stage without a sound check and everything was perfect. Event Hire Network really deserves a lot of credit for the work they did.
Obviously the KidZ, especially Drama Princess, made use of the photo opportunities with artists.
One of the things I particularly like about the Wildsfees is that they evaluate all stall applications and don't just allow anything and everything. It means that there aren't rows opon rows of foong kong fake goods stalls. The focus is rather on hand made quality crafts and products.
I always think that if you want to make money at a festival then you have to have a food stall. Do your own math. 50 000 people, three day festival, entertainment all day long. People get hungry. People get thirsty. People need to eat and drink. It's not all just printing money though. The food stall people work long and hard hours. The food at the festival was yummy though. Everything from kudu burgers to fish and calamari, chip & dip to sushi, koeksisters to Chinese food and everything in between. Two places I didn't photograph, because I didn't visit it, were the wine garden and the beer tent. Sorry, I'm not really a drinker so I lost nothing there. My only negative comment about a festival like this is the amount of alcohol that people consume at it. Both these areas were packed all day long and wine bottles and beer cans were stacked up six packs deep. Not really my kind of scene.
The festival also had a very popular display area where, on the Saturday, we first watched how a SANParks anti poaching dog took down a baddie before the annual Boerboel dog show. If you haven't been there you probably won't believe me, but the Boerboel show must be the most popular activity after the music on stage. People were pushing and squeezing in to get a spot to watch these magnificent dogs being judged. I was also very impressed by the conservation area in one of the tents where SANParks and a couple of other organisations were exhibiting.
One of the new additions to the festival this year was a Fairy Garden... with real fairies.
All in all the ABSA Kirkwood Wildsfees was a huge success this year. The weather was perfect. The artists and entertainment superb. People were (mostly) well behaved. Service was brisk. I have to give a big up to the organisers on running a very sleek ship from a festival goer's point of view. A well deserved feather in the cap of Jennifer Honsbein and her team. I'm already looking forward to see how they are planning to top this year when the 2016 ABSA Kirkwood Wildsfees comes around.
Disclosure: We received tickets to attend the ABSA Kirkwood Wildsfees from the organisares. All additional costs, food, petrol and accommodation was for our own cost. The tickets were for normal entrance and didn't allow for additional media or back stage access. I received no further remuneration, wasn't asked to write a positive post and keep full editorial control.