After a hiatus of five years, the East London Port Festival will once again turn a working port into a public celebration of all things maritime on the weekend of June 24 and 25.
Thrilling attractions this year will be exciting harbour racing featuring hard-bottom boats, jet-skis, rubber ducks and yachts, as well as the presence of a South African navy vessel, which will be open to the public.
Three stages and a jazz café will be abuzz with local musicians, school jazz and marimba bands, a lively performance by the Kaapse Klopse and performers from Centrestage, while an anything-that-floats competition in aid of the SPCA should provide a good dose of wacky hilarity.
Tug rides, a children’s entertainment area, a beer garden and a craft and food market will add to the fun at the harbour and a magical fireworks display on Saturday night will light up the sky.
Port spokesman Terry Taylor said Buffalo City Municipality was contributing R1-million to the event, of which the Daily Dispatch is the media partner, while the provincial department of transport was funding the maritime exhibit.
The last festival was held in 2012 and attracted 25000 visitors who flocked to the port to enjoy the many attractions laid on by Transnet National Port Authority and BCM.
Taylor said it was now time to bring back the festival, which was first launched in 1988 and was once an annual event.
“East London was the pilot site for port festivals, but then there were the new safety and operational rules at the country’s ports,” said Taylor.
“Then there was a decision to look at the concept of people-friendly ports and port festivals were reintroduced and have been held at the Richard’s Bay, Durban and Port Elizabeth ports, but now it’s our turn. We want to make it a biannual event.”
Taylor said a massive sail-past of port craft including the SAPS water wing and NSRI on both days would be a must-see.
On Sunday, June 25, in celebration of World Seafarers Day, a service will be held on the quayside which will include the blessing of ships and a marching band.
Visitors will also be able to board the SA Agulhus, a polar supply and training vessel which recently returned from a scientific expedition to Antarctica, and will be in port.
As in previous years, proceeds of the port festival will benefit local charities. Tickets cost R20 per person. For inquiries call (043) 700-2446.