Napier’s swell party,

Joanna Wane joins the crowds putting on the ritz for the 30th an­nual Art Deco Fes­ti­val in Napier.


Dogs wore cheese-cut­ter hats and bro­cade waist­coats. In an old­fash­ioned pram, a puppy in pearls and lace peeked out from un­der the hood.

Men with ruddy faces dressed in braces and bow ties and boaters; gang­sters bared their an­kles in short trousers, Al Capone-style, as they toted wooden ma­chine guns on the street.

A flotilla of lace para­sols floated along Napier’s Marine Pa­rade – parting to make way for a mo­bil­ity scooter that bar­relled through the crowd, the rider’s pink gloves and shoes match­ing the flow­ers gamely pinned to her hat.

Matilda and her soon-to-no-longer-be-a-bach­e­lor Art were there, both of them ef­fort­lessly charm­ing and in a dif­fer­ent out­fit each day. On Satur­day af­ter­noon, she wore flat shoes, a cloche hat and spec­ta­cles to judge the Cos­tumes, Coif­fure and Bathing Belles com­pe­ti­tions. MC John Cock­ing (aka “Ber­tie”) de­scribed a pair of beach PJS mod­elled by a vis­i­tor from the Gold Coast as “ab­so­lutely spiff­ing”.

“Give us a lit­tle spin at the end, dar­ling,” he en­cour­aged a shy young wren in an orig­i­nal World War I nurse’s uni­form. “That’s it, beau­ti­fully done. The next lit­tle lady, please...”

Chil­dren swirled black mous­taches above their top lips, and teenage girls showed off their legs in skimpy flap­per dresses that re­vealed the oc­ca­sional in­con­gru­ous tat­too. An older woman dressed in head-to-toe apri­cot had plas­ters on the back of her heels, where the stiff leather of her lace-up brogues had rubbed.

Inside one of the banks, a teller worked at her com­puter in a head­band and sparkly sil­ver se­quins. Thank god for air- con­di­tion­ing. Out on the street, ele­gant women of a cer­tain vin­tage sweated qui­etly un­der lux­u­ri­ous fur stoles as the mid­day tem­per­a­ture hit 30°C. How their stock­ings must have prick­led in the heat.

Glen Pick­er­ing must have been sweat­ing, too, be­fore the open­ing pōwhiri at the Sound­shell, on Fe­bru­ary 14 – Valen­tine’s Day. He ran the World Buskers Fes­ti­val in Christchurch be­fore tak­ing over as di­rec­tor of Napier’s Art Deco Fes­ti­val, mak­ing his de­but in 2017. It rained, for the first

time in 17 years. Then, at his first Win­ter Deco Week­end a few months later, flood­ing closed the train lines – cut­ting off the Vin­tage Rail­car – and heavy snow trapped cars on the Napier-taupō road.

This year, the sun glowed in a flaw­less, indigo-blue sky. Pick­er­ing shone, too, in a striped blazer with match­ing bow tie and boater. On Sun­day, he helped judge the Deco Dog Pa­rade at the Sound­shell. Chi­huahuas in tiaras nipped at the heels of Rus­sian wolfhounds, and a bowler-hat­ted Char­lie Chap­lin and his looka­like schnau­zer won a prize. By the time it was all over, the grass was lit­tered with boa feath­ers.

An hour later, he was hand­ing out prizes at the Soapbox Derby. Spec­ta­tors lined the street as race­car driv­ers as young as four ca­reered down Ten­nyson St to­wards a bank of sand­bags at the fin­ish­ing line, chased by run­ners to make sure no one veered too far off track; a replica 1930s Bu­gatti still had vis­i­ble dam­age from a crash the year be­fore. “Start your en­gines,” boomed the an­nouncer, as the carts lined

up for each heat. “And push…!”

Pick­er­ing is in his el­e­ment at an event like this, which is all about putting on a fab­u­lous show and, for a while, slip­ping into some­one else’s skin. In his early days as an ac­tor, he was a body dou­ble for twins Jethro and Van on the TV3 se­ries Out­ra­geous For­tune (whether he was in any of the show’s no­to­ri­ous sex scenes, one didn’t like to ask, but ap­par­ently the writ­ers liked to make sure there was at least one within the first few min­utes of ev­ery episode).

“When you put on a cos­tume, your be­hav­iour changes, and you re­ally do be­come another per­son,” he said, over cof­fee at the Ma­sonic Ho­tel, one of the art- deco mas­ter­pieces that rose from the rub­ble af­ter the 1931 earth­quake de­stroyed so much of the city cen­tre. All the Ma­sonic’s staff were dressed up for the week­end, from bus­boys to bar­tenders, trans­form­ing the place into a heav­ing Pro­hi­bi­tion- era speakeasy. “You can imag­ine the 1920s and 1930s look­ing just like this,” said Pick­er­ing, look­ing out over the ter­race. “It’s like walk­ing onto a film set.” It was the 30th year the fes­ti­val had been held, and a stag­ger­ing 45,000 people poured into Napier over the week­end – a quar­ter of them from out of town.

The Great Gatsby Party at the Mis­sion Es­tate Win­ery sold out, with tick­ets at $220 a pop, but most of the events were free. On Satur­day, the pave­ments were packed with spec­ta­tors for the Vin­tage Car Pa­rade, led through the city cen­tre by the Royal New Zealand Navy Band.

En­try was capped at 300 cars, but all eyes were on the celebrity top 30, which had an ex­tra­or­di­nary com­bined value of more than $30 mil­lion. There was a 1934 Cadil­lac V6 Town Cabri­o­let, first owned by Mar­lene Di­et­rich; a 1935 Due­sen­berg J Phaeton once owned by Ca­role Lom­bard; a 1935 Packard S8 Coupe that used to be­long to Amelia Earhart; and New Zealand’s old­est car, an 1895 Benz. A fer­ret (long de­ceased) sprawled over the back of a gold and black 1913

On the North Is­land's west coast, Mt Kar­ioi presides over the waves rolling in at Raglan's Manu Bay. Māori le­gend has it the ex­tinct vol­cano is the form of a long-ago princess who, on dis­cov­er­ing her hus­band's be­trayal, lay down in an­guish to rest. It's about three hours to the top – from where you'll spot Mt Taranaki, on a clear day – so you might need a lit­tle rest your­self once you've made it to the summit.

Raglan is only 45 min­utes' drive for Hamil­to­ni­ans, and two hours for Auck­lan­ders, but the lit­tle town's end- of-the-road, har­bour­side lo­cale feels a world away. The sur­fies seem to have set the tone: a laid-back, bo­hemian vibe.

Com­mu­nity spirit has soared in re­cent years, with eco-ini­tia­tives, a thriv­ing arts scene and the likes of the weekly Crop Swap at the Bowl­ing Club. In Raglan, you'll also find yoga classes, lux­ury yurts and lo­cally made yo­ghurt (the dairy-free, co­conut kind).

Make the most of the waves by hav­ing a crack at surf­ing, boo­gieboard­ing or kitesurf­ing. The calmer wa­ters of the har­bour are per­fect for kayak­ing and pad­dle­board­ing, and the lime­stone cliffs around it can be scaled and ab­seiled – or take to the hills and beaches on horse­back.

When it comes to shop­ping, you don't re­ally need to make a plan, just wan­der along the palm-lined main street, and the al­ley­ways sprout­ing from it, and you'll be in bou­tique/ gallery/cu­rio heaven. Mosey on down to the wharf and you'll find a clus­ter of cre­ativ­ity, from local pot­ter Tony Sly's clay cre­ations, to de­light­fully eclec­tic vin­tage and hand­made goods. Stay for a bite from Raglan Fish – a dine-in or take­away fish and chip shop – or the Raglan Wharf Kitchen & Bar.

Hunger pangs are also well sat­is­fied at The Shack, Raglan So­cial Club, Orca and Bow Street De­pot. There's lo­cally roasted cof­fee – Raglan Roast – and it's worth get­ting in early for the sour­dough sold at Rua­puke Ar­ti­san Bread, a hole-in-the-wall bak­ery be­side the Trade Aid shop. On the way out to the surf breaks, stop at Food Depart­ment, which is run by Ital­ians with a pas­sion for pizza and gelato; or Rock-it Kitchen, which is based in an old wool­shed.

Head­ing in­land, you can wind your way by foot or bike along the scenic Waikato River Trails, which span 100km of pre­vi­ously in­ac­ces­si­ble land and weave through wet­land, farm­land and his­toric vil­lages built to ser­vice the con­struc­tion of the hy­dro dams.

Nearby Hamilton is the home of farm­ing fes­ti­val Fiel­d­ays, held in June, and it's also steadily amass­ing an ar­ray of great street art, re­tail stores, and award-win­ning restau­rants and craft beer. The area's new­est and most un­usual crop – oo­long tea – is flour­ish­ing at Zea­long, New Zealand's only com­mer­cial tea es­tate.

Travel through time and across con­ti­nents at in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed Hamilton Gardens, where each of the 20-plus themed zones acts as a liv­ing mu­seum for eras and civil­i­sa­tions as di­verse as the Ital­ian Re­nais­sance, the Chi­nese Song Dy­nasty, Tu­dor Eng­land, the Mughal em­per­ors of In­dia and Amer­i­can modernism.

The city's Waikato Mu­seum houses taonga that re­flects the cul­tural her­itage of Waikato-tainui, in­clud­ing Te Winika, one of the best-pre­served waka from the pre­coloni­sa­tion era. It also man­ages Art­spost, a shop and gallery space for local art and de­sign which is lo­cated in the former Post Of­fice, a glo­ri­ous her­itage build­ing.

Above: Dancers kick up their heels on the lawn along Marine Pa­rade. Op­po­site (clock­wise from top): Young en­trants in the Deco Dog Pa­rade; a con­tender for the “Best Looka­like” prize; street en­ter­tain­ment be­fore the run­ning of the Soapbox Derby.

Above: The Vin­tage Car Pa­rade, fol­lowed by a pub­lic view­ing on Marine Pa­rade (left). Op­po­site: Cool­ing off, shoes and all, in the Tom Parker Foun­tain.

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