28 January 2014

Auckland Anniversary Day

Yesterday was Auckland Anniversary Day, a public holiday in Auckland city and province to commemorate the arrival here in 1840 of Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson, though the events in the city today had little to do with that commemoration.

Traditionally, there is an Anniversary Day Regatta on Waitemata harbour – they have been held every year but one since 1850 – and the sparkling waters of the Waitemata are usually awash with sails and power boats. But this year, from what I saw, not a lot was happening out on the harbour, probably due to the very stiff sou’westerlies.

The Regatta, as reported by the Auckland Weekly News, February 1902
On land and close to it, however, it was a different story. Events held over the long weekend included the Auckland Seafood Festival – much as I love seafood, I didn’t attend. Paying $20 to get in and then having to pay for your food as well didn’t appeal to the Scots blood in my ancestry.

This was also the weekend of the International Buskers Festival so I checked out a few of the street venues to see what was going on. There was juggling, dancing, comedy, puppetry, mime and acrobatics by performers from Brazil, Mexico and Italy as well as some home-grown talent. Scooby Circus’s fire juggling was well done, I watched an escape artist shrug his way out of a well-fastened straitjacket, but I arrived at the end of El Jaguar’s performance so I have no idea what he was up to. His skimpy costume was enough to put me off, though!

Sometimes the spectators (left) are just as interesting as the performers - the poster was just a lucky coincidence

The main focus of the Anniversary Day festivities was on the water and around the waterfront. Activities at the Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum included public sailings of their various vessels, the Ted Ashby, the Waka Haunui and the Breeze. The Royal New Zealand Navy’s pipes and drums marching band paraded up and down the waterfront a couple of times. And the Ports of Auckland opened up Captain Cook Wharf for a variety of activities.

The port’s tugs raced down the harbour, then displayed their manoeuvrability with a dizzying array of twists and turns, but the display that had me particularly fascinated was a guy who had hooked up a tube to the outlet of his jetski and was using the hydraulic power the jetski motor generated to lift himself off the water – see the photo.


 
Sailors dancing on stilts and men dressed as pirates - people watching was very entertaining!
There were displays of machinery – the huge machines that seem to effortlessly lift large, heavy containers, and the trucks that carry those containers. The Coastguard vessel and staff were on hand to answer questions about their role in maritime safety and protecting local waters. You could pay $69 for a helicopter ride around the harbour, and kids could have their faces painted and have fun in bouncy castles and Pink Panthers, on a Pirate Ship ride and whirling round in giant teacups.


Within the confines of Viaduct harbour, dragon boat races were held throughout the day. There were 27 races in all, short bursts of intense paddling over a 250-metre course. Men’s, women’s and mixed teams of all age groups took part, with team names like the Swashbuckler Sirens, the Waikato Treasure Chests, Jack Sparrow’s Jaffettes and the Sky Serpents. It looked like huge fun!

 

The inner city was absolutely buzzing with large crowds of people enjoying the holiday off work and the summer sunshine, and there were two cruise ships in town, P&O’s Dawn Princess and Silversea’s Silver Whisper, so many of their passengers were also roaming the streets enjoying the fun. A day off work, a bright sunny day, interesting things to see and do … the perfect combination!