Napier's Art Deco Festival

In the heart of New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay region lies Napier, a city that boasts a unique and captivating architectural heritage. This city is not just a testament to history but also a living celebration of the Art Deco era. Every year, Napier hosts one of the most extraordinary festivals in the country – Napier’s Art Deco. In this comprehensive blog post, we’ll take you on a journey into the Roaring Twenties and explore the rich history, vibrant culture, and dazzling events that make this festival an unmissable experience.

Chapter 1: The Art Deco Revival

  • Origins of Art Deco in Napier

To truly understand the significance of Napier’s Art Deco Festival, we must first delve into the city’s unique history. On February 3, 1931, a devastating earthquake struck the Hawke’s Bay region, leaving Napier in ruins. In the aftermath, the city was rebuilt, largely in the Art Deco architectural style that was popular at the time. This era of rebuilding resulted in a remarkable and cohesive Art Deco cityscape.

  • The Art Deco Aesthetic

Art Deco, which emerged in the 1920s and 1930s, is characterized by geometric shapes, bold colors, and a sense of luxury and modernity. The architecture, fashion, and design of the era reflected the optimism and innovation of the time. In Napier, these Art Deco elements are woven into the fabric of the city.

Chapter 2: The Napier Art Deco Festival – An Overview

  • History of the Festival

The Napier Art Deco Festival was first held in 1989, driven by a desire to celebrate and preserve the city’s unique architectural heritage. Over the years, it has grown into one of New Zealand’s largest and most iconic festivals, attracting visitors from around the world.

  • Dates and Duration

The festival typically spans five days, with events and activities taking place throughout Napier. It usually occurs in late February to commemorate the anniversary of the devastating 1931 earthquake.

  • Themes and Costuming

Each year, the festival adopts a specific theme that encapsulates the spirit of the Roaring Twenties. Festivalgoers are encouraged to embrace the theme through their costumes, adding an extra layer of fun and authenticity to the event.

Festivalgoers are encouraged to embrace the theme through their costumes

Chapter 3: Festival Highlights

  • The Gatsby Picnic

The festival kicks off with the Gatsby Picnic, held in the beautiful Clive Square. Participants dress in their finest 1920s attire, complete with flapper dresses, bow ties, and boater hats. The picnic features live jazz music, picnicking on the lawn, and an air of elegance reminiscent of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, “The Great Gatsby.”

  • Vintage Car Parade

One of the festival’s most iconic events is the Vintage Car Parade. The streets of Napier come alive with the roar of classic cars, lovingly restored to their former glory. These vehicles, dating back to the 1920s and 1930s, cruise through the city, offering a glimpse into the past.

Vintage Car Parade
  • Deco Dance

Dance enthusiasts and novices alike can partake in the Deco Dance, where you can learn popular dance styles from the Art Deco era, such as the Charleston and the Lindy Hop. Live music and expert instructors create an atmosphere that transports participants back in time.

  • Art Deco Homes Tours

One of the festival’s highlights is the opportunity to explore the interiors of private Art Deco homes. These guided tours offer a rare glimpse into the stunning architectural details, furnishings, and stories of the homes that make up Napier’s unique cityscape.

  • Fashion Shows and Contests

Fashion plays a significant role in the festival, and attendees are encouraged to don their best vintage attire. Fashion shows and contests are held throughout the festival, showcasing the glamorous and stylish clothing of the era.

  • The Sound Shell Concert

The Sound Shell Concert is a free event held in the heart of Napier. With the iconic Pania of the Reef statue as a backdrop, the concert features live jazz, swing, and big band performances. It’s the perfect opportunity to enjoy great music in a stunning setting.

Sound Shell Concert

Chapter 4: Beyond the Festival

  • Art Deco Trust and Guided Tours

Year-round, the Art Deco Trust in Napier offers guided walking tours of the city’s Art Deco architecture. These tours provide insight into the history, design, and stories behind the buildings that make Napier unique.

  • Art Deco Boutique Shopping

Napier is home to a range of boutiques and shops that specialize in Art Deco-era fashion, accessories, and home decor. Exploring these stores is like stepping into a time machine, and you may find a vintage treasure to take home.

  • Dining and Culinary Experiences

The city’s dining scene also embraces the Art Deco theme. Many restaurants and cafes offer special menus and dining experiences during the festival and throughout the year. You can enjoy classic cocktails, elegant dining, and 1920s-inspired cuisine.

Chapter 5: Practical Information

  • Accommodation

Napier offers a range of accommodation options, from boutique hotels to cozy bed-and-breakfasts. It’s advisable to book well in advance, especially if you plan to visit during the festival.

  • Transportation

Napier is easily accessible by car, and there are regular domestic flights to Hawke’s Bay Airport. Once in Napier, the city is compact and walkable, making it easy to explore on foot.

  • Tickets and Reservations

While many festival events are free, some require tickets or reservations. It’s a good idea to plan your itinerary in advance and book any paid events early to secure your spot.

  • Weather

Napier enjoys a mild coastal climate, but it’s a good idea to check the weather forecast before your visit. Remember to bring sunscreen and stay hydrated, especially if you plan to participate in outdoor events.

Chapter 6: Conclusion

The Napier Art Deco Festival is not just a celebration of architecture and history; it’s a journey back in time to an era of glamour, elegance, and optimism. The city’s unique blend of Art Deco heritage, lively atmosphere, and warm hospitality make it a destination that continues to captivate visitors year after year.

Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a vintage fashion lover, or simply someone looking for an unforgettable experience, the Napier Art Deco Festival offers something for everyone. So, put on your best flapper dress or pinstripe suit, step into the world of the Roaring Twenties, and immerse yourself in the timeless charm of Napier’s Art Deco legacy.