Napier is known as the Art Deco Capital of the world. Following a massive earthquake (7.9 on the Richter scale) on the morning of Tuesday 3 February 1931, fires destroyed most of the commercial heart of Napier. The city was rebuilt in the style of that era and by the end of the decade Napier was the newest city on the globe. The annual Art Deco Festival celebrates the rebuilding of the city after this horrendous time. Our intrepid group of ICA travelers parked up close to all the action at Napier Intermediate School, just a shortish walk to the city centre. It seemed longer to those with knee and hip problems, but everyone made it there and back.
Nice to be parked on green grass
The Art Deco Trust puts together a very full programme, and as first time attendees, everything was new to us. The highlight to us was the vintage car parade, with 300 pre-1946 cars registered. We walked through Clive Square and admired a young family dressed up for the day. It was lovely to see so many getting into the spirit with their vintage styled clothing.
We spent some time in this area admiring these beauties as they awaited the start of the display. How did the passengers clamber up into those dickey seats and get settled while dressed to the nines, I wonder?
Waiting to take part in the parade
In my opinion, there is nothing more thrilling than a pipe band - the Hawkes Bay Caledonian Pipe band started playing and got my toes tapping and my (diluted) Scots blood racing through the veins.
The Royal New Zealand Navy Band looked extra smart as they started playing before the parade. The navy played a crucial role in Napier during the 1931 earthquake. At 10:46 am on 3 February 1931 an earthquake registering 7.8 on the Richter scale shook throughout New Zealand, its epicentre just 15.2 kms north of Napier. The initial shock lasted for 2.5 minutes. In the city of Napier, buildings and chimneys toppled, roads broke apart and the earth heaved and opened. Water rushed out of the harbour as the ground rose. HMS Veronica was ‘left high and dry, all the wire mooring lines broke, but the ropes, made from New Zealand flax, held, and prevented her from rolling over on her side.’ Commander Morgan landed rescue teams to assist the injured, feed the hungry and help establish a sense of order amidst the chaos. Fires were ablaze on shore, power and water supplies were cut and hundreds discovered they were homeless. Two merchant ships at anchor nearby, the Taranaki and Northumberland placed themselves under naval command and assisted in the relief efforts.
Royal New Zealand Navy Band
Once the car parade, the bands, and marching girls had moved off, it was time to make our way to see some of the other delights on show. Ladies walked by dressed in their beaded finery, fancy feather headdresses, and some sporting fox furs around their shoulders. The gents were also elegantly dressed, braces, hats some in knickerbocker trousers too. And look what fun this bunch of revelers are having.
That looks like fun
There was a concert in full swing at the Sound Shell, this is free entertainment for the masses. Seasoned attendees knew to take some folding chairs with them, while others had to stand, sit on the grass, or find somewhere to perch on.
Concert at the Sound Shell
Flying displays by the Warbirds Display Team roared overhead. We watched as they flew in formation, and looped the looped. Then one would break away from the group, fly up high, then nose down seemingly in a suicide mission, luckily pulling up in the nick of time and continue on his way. Thrilling stuff indeed!
Warbirds Display Team
Getting footsore and a little weary we wandered back to the van, stopping to admire some of the Art Deco buildings as we passed by. There are many, many Art Deco buildings, as this was the style that the city was rebuilt in after the earthquake.
Art Deco architecture
Later in the afternoon our group had their own Best Dressed competition, and what a lovely bunch we were. After the judges put their heads together, the winners were announced. The Best Dressed Couple was Val and Graham, the Best Dressed Lady was Jeanette, and Jim took the prize as the Best Dressed Gentleman. Congratulations to all.
Val and Bill, and us, Jenny and Robin
All in our finery
Some rain fell on our last evening in Napier, quite heavy for a while so it is sure to be welcomed by the region. It didn’t stop us sitting outside under the awning though, and the cooler temperatures were a relief.