This past Saturday was one of those weird convergences that happens in Wellington in the summer, where it seems like everybody has something on. I hooked up with Emily to take advantage of as much of it as I could — starting with the Vincent’s Art Workshop open day, where Emily had her pick of the works of a local outsider artist known for pieces done with ballpoint pen, and where I learned how long the cords on your poi should be, and chatted about fried dough.
My observation is that every culture that has fairs, has some kind of fried dough sold there. Where I grew up in the South, it was funnel cakes. When we moved to New England, it was just “fried dough” (same deal, without the funnel). In New Zealand, it’s little mini-donuts. There’s this machine that squirts the donut-shaped dough balls into one end of a sort of trough of hot oil. By the time they bob along to the other end of the trough, they’re done. Then the operator scoops them out with a fry basket, drops them into a little paper bag and shakes an unhealthful amount of cinnamon and sugar over them. Maori New Zealanders have their own version, called paraoa parai. The paraoa they were selling at the Vincent’s open house was a bit like heavy, sweetish biscuit (in the American sense). Yummy.
After Vincent’s, Em & I toodled through Civic Square, where they were having the annual “Fricnic” opening the Wellington Fringe Festival. We paused and watched a hip-hop dance performance. I love watching men dance (I like watching women dance, too, but it’s much easier to find women dancing), and these had that extra-super-macho-faux-indifference-slightly-surly attitude that you get with hip-hop, so that it really looked like nothing so much as a choreographed mating display (“Look at us, ladies; we are so very very full of testosterone that we can even make dancing with other men look manly. Grrr!”). I’m sure they would be appalled to know how charmed I was.
Next stop was the Te Papa 10th Anniversary kick-off, which we largely passed by, apart from admiring some sculptures made from number 8 wire, and a beautifully restored 19thC Dutch street organ — it ran on card-books, like the punched paper rolls that player-pianos use, except instead of paper, it’s long strips of card accordion-folded into books, complete with illustrated color covers.
We passed the crowd collected to watch the skateboarding competition in the Waitangi skate park, and continued on to the Overseas Terminal and the Greek Food Festival. Like ferret shock, I tell you. I ended up settling on biftiki (like kofta, or a Greek burger, in grilled pita with lettuce and that delicious yogurt-stuff), and followed up with the Greek version of fried dough — egg-sized blobs of dough fried and then lightly honey-glazed and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
Then back across the waterfront to Frank Kitts Park, where the first Wellington Pasifika festival was set up. Now as you may or may not imagine, New Zealand has a massive Polynesian/Pacific Islander population. The Auckland Pasifika Fesitval held in March is, according to the Human Rights Commission, “one of the largest community events in the South Pacific. It is recognised as an important celebration of the art, culture and lifestyle of Pacific Islands communities of Auckland.” It’s just this massive, massive event, and people come from all over the Pacific to participate. There are food stalls and craft stalls and performances representing all (or what certainly seems like all) the island nations of the Pacific. Now, this is the first year they’ve tried to have one in Wellington, and so it was a small thing, but I hope it will survive and get bigger and better.
After toodling around there for a bit, admiring the flower garlands & trying out some Cook Islands drums (which sound a lot like their Tahitian counterparts, that Holly and I have danced to), we hopped in our respective cars and lit out for the Petone Rotary Festival. This was a more like a regular fair (including donuts), with a lot of the same merchants as were at the Manakau Medieval Fair (which I went to a couple weeks ago) and the Martinborough Fair (that I went to the week before that — it’s fair season, doncha know).
After elbowing our way from one end of Jackson Street to the other, Emily peeled off to get a pretty little antique ring she’d just bought cleaned and identified, and I hooked up with Melanie to swing into the Gypsy Fair, which happened to be camped nearby. (I’ve written about the Gypsy Fair — and the beautiful house trucks — previously.) Then (finally) home.
Of course, the day didn’t end there — Stephen was busy entertaining alpaca admirers when first I, then Melanie arrived. After Alan’s home-made scones and Melanie’s home-made pizza, there was a bit more alpaca and goose wrangling (and Kerry’s arrival), and then we were all off to J’ville for a “sweet-off” — i.e., a bunch of the local cooks having a dessert competition, with us punters to mop up the results. Oi. A sweet end to a looooong day.