Zoom in from a backdrop of the mountains of Franschhoek to where the sun shines lazily on people lounging on picnic blankets… they tuck into heaped platters selected from groaning tables with fluttering white table cloths while gentle entertainment is provided by local bands and musicians. Surely you can’t go wrong with a festival in Franschhoek? Well, yes. Sadly you can.
Regardless of how much time is spent arranging a festival, there are still organisers out there who forget that people need to know where exactly the festival is taking place. After spending nearly an hour trying to locate our final destination, with absolutely no branding, banners or any indication of an event taking place, we finally located The Groendal Sports Field up on a low rise behind a group of houses just before the town.
It appeared fairly sparsely populated, but the sun at least was shining and in an attempt to remain positive we ventured forth. Clearly the event wasn’t in full swing, despite it being a good few hours since the official start. One of the exhibitors informed me that 1000 tickets had been pre-sold but perhaps others had also failed to locate the festival due to it being moved from its location of last year.
This being the second year the festival was running, I expected there to be a variety of food and wine stalls, presumably all with a seafood theme. But the total number of exhibitors comprised of a large red Coca Cola truck / stage (unoccupied), about 20 stalls offering a minimal selection of sushi, crayfish curry, seafood platters, pancakes, Chinese food and hot chips, and a few other miscellaneous vendors selling standard market tat such as fake name brand watches and clothes. The stalls were arranged, with the vendors’ cars parked behind car-boot-sale-style, around the very edge of the field, with a large echoing void in the middle. The ambience was more reminiscent of a school hockey match than a festival.
Included in our ticket was a seafood platter for one and a 250ml bottle of wine. The platter was a polystyrene box with a rather sad seafood kebab, about 10 hot chips, 6 prawns and a handful of calamari rings. Presentation aside, it was an odd offering, given that the majority of stalls were there to sell food to the visitors. But I suppose it did whet the appetite to some degree.
While we were eating, a boy band of five youngsters took to the stage and tried to get the crowd going with admirable humour and enthusiasm. Then a young lady took over and screeched a terrible rendition of one of Rihanna’s hits. It was time to head home, but not before one final disappointment – there were no bins in which dump my polystyrene box and empty wine bottle.
On the way home, on the final outstretch of farmland before the N1 highway, there was a sea of white tents, hundreds of parked cars and the distant hum of people enjoying the festivities of the Cheese and Wine Festival. Next year I think I’ll be trying out that one instead.
The 2nd Franschhoek Seafood Festival was held on the 30 April 2011.