UPDATE: Knysna Oyster Festival opens with spirit of hope despite more fires

2017-07-08 10:19 - Kavitha Pillay
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Cape Town - More veld fires that began on Thursday 6 July in the south-eastern parts of Western Cape did not deter the much-anticipated opening of the Knysna Oyster Festival.

The Festival's official opening, at Whe+ restaurant in Knysna on Thursday night, was attended by about 300 guests and VIPs including MP James Vos, Executive Mayor of Knysna Councillor Eleanore Bouw-Spies, Miss South Africa Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters.

ALSO SEE: #RideForALocal: Knysna all set for upcoming Cycle Tour

Mayor Bouw-Spies says that the town of Knysna had always looked towards the Oyster Festival to help revive the ailing tourism economy. “This time the knock that our economy is taking is not merely as a result of a downward global economic spiral but as a result of a force of nature that was completely out of our hands - the devastating Knysna Fires,” she says.

The overriding message of the evening was one of hope. “Tourism is alive and well in Knysna,” was the announcement from Chairperson of Knysna & Partners, Elmay Bouwer. "It’s been a challenging few weeks, but Knysna has managed to rise from the ashes and say to the local and international tourism community that we are strong, we are here, and we are open for business.”

SEE: #KnysnaFire: Oyster Fest, Cycle Tour and Marathon going ahead, damage to be assessed

Bouwer also thanked the festival’s headline sponsors, Pick and Pay and Momentum, for “not only making sure that the festival goes ahead, but also for setting their marquees up early so that the disaster relief effort could use the facilities.”

MP James Vos says that “Knysna is heavily dependent on tourism, and residents would be dealt an additional blow if their tourism economy were to decline. Therefore, I’m thrilled by the response from the tourism industry together with the authorities that this town remains ‘open for business’.

Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival officially opened. (Photo: Supplied)

“Following on this, I’m happy to report that the Western Cape Government has pledged financial assistance of R75 million towards the rebuilding of this town, and furthermore Wesgro has provided over R100 000 to sponsor and promote the Knysna Oyster Festival and Knysna as an ultimate place to visit,” adds Vos.

Families encouraged to attend Festival

Knysna's Mayor invited all residents and visitors to revel in the excitement of the festival. “Get on a bicycle. Put on your hiking boots. Start slurping on those delectable molluscs that the festival was named after. Grab a shuttle and sample great South African wine at the Knysna Wine Festival. Giggle through the Chuckles comedy show. Watch or join in during the Oyster Shucking and Eating Competition,” she says.

SEE: 5 Tips for those heading to the Knysna Oyster Festival

Holidaymakers making their way to the Garden Route in excitement of  the Knysna Oyster Festival, are advised to be cautious and prepared when travelling on SA’s roads.

Travellers must also take caution when near the coastlines or visiting SA's beaches, as stronger than usual rip currents are expected this weekend.

MUST-SEE: ALERT: Holidaymakers on SA's coastline must be cautious of strong rip currents this weekend

The much-anticipated winter festival - The Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival - together with the Knysna Cycle Tour and ‘Phoenix’ Trail Run - takes place from 7 July to 16 July. The full programme, which offers plenty of family activities, numerous sporting events and gourmet delights with oysters in between, is available on www.oysterfestival.co.za.

Fire danger alert in surrounding area

‏ warns that "Extremely high fire danger conditions expected in eastern and central Western Cape and in places in the Eastern Cape today (Saturday 8 July)."

Despite more fires a month after the massive fire disaster, the Knysna Oyster Festival marketing coordinator, Candice Cornelissen confirmed with Traveller24 that these fires (on Friday 7 July) "have not affected the Knysna Oyster Festival" which is "going ahead as usual".

‏ gave an update on the situation with the new fires, saying the fires that broke out in the Knysna area on Thursday afternoon "have been brought under control".

Working on Fire says on Friday that "There are currently five ongoing fires in the Southern Cape. More than 100 firefighters from the Department of Environmental Affairs Working on Fire programme are active in Knysna, Blanco, Plettenberg Bay, Swartberg (Oudtshoorn) and Gouritsmond." The focus areas in Knysna are Buffels Bay, Simola area and Groenvlei, adds Working on Fire.

ALSO SEE: Knysna Oyster Festival to go ahead despite another fire a month after massive disaster

According to Southern Cape FPA, Manager Charl Wade, the wind changes made it difficult for ground and aerial crew to control the fire on Friday morning but "the fire situation looks good as the fires are contained".

Working on Fire have partnered with the Southern Cape FPA, Eden and Knysna Fire and Rescue services, giving peace of mind regarding fire control in the area and for attendance to The Knynsa Oyster Festrival.

South African Weather Service warns that on Saturday, extremely high fire danger conditions are expected over the southern interior of the Northern Cape including Calvinia, Breede River Valley, Cantral Karoo and places of the Eden district of the Western Cape. The fire danger warning extends to places of the western, northern and central parts of the Eastern Cape, as far as Barkly East. See the latest full weather report here.

What to read next on Traveller24:

#KnysnaRises: Oyster Festival to include new ‘Phoenix’ Trail Run

#KnysnaRises: SA shares their most memorable moments

#HopeForKnysna: Garden Route events, sites and experiences not to miss