The first stop into town, and officially marked 1 on the green Olive Festival sign, was Kloovenburg. The wine farm had cultivated a subtle European atmosphere for the day by using a live accordion player and food stalls with fresh bread, cheese and of course, olives. In an attempt to take it easy – after all it was the first stop – I only had a taste of the Brut. The second glass confirmed that the dry MCC was indeed a superb way to start the Olive Festival.
The Olive Festival is an annual two day event in the Riebeek Valley. For R80 festival goers are issued a ‘passport’ which grants them access to the seven main venues at the festival and a tasting glass. For inevitably where there are olives there are wines.
Though we enjoyed the festival atmosphere at Kloovenburg, the crowds were thicker than we would like for a Saturday. Thinking we were rather clever we went out of sequence on the map and headed over to Number 6, the Funky Fresh Market. But after Kloovenburg the market proved a little underwhelming save for the taste-the-seawater-fresh oysters from the Oyster Lady stall.
Lunch of roosterkoek with apricot jam and cheese paired with Chenin Blanc 2012 followed at number 7, Pulpit Rock. It was fun to watch some of the festival goers’ reactions to the petting zoo; perhaps more fun in fact than engaging with the (very cute) animals directly. Many people simply chose to do a drive-by, with a quick fawn over the twin lambs before quickly swerving out to avoid knocking over the various children milling around.
The epicentre of the festival seemed to be at point number 3: The Olive Emporium and Rugby Lounge. It may have been the prominence of the word olive in its name, though I strongly suspect the rugby helped, because this point appeared to be the most popular.
In the end, the popularity of the festival was its undoing for us. It is not every day you get stuck in a traffic jam in the sleepy town of Riebeek Kasteel but the novelty soon wore off. Casting a last longing glance at the white marquee tent pumping with live music we untangled ourselves from the traffic and headed home.
Just like the fruit the festival celebrates, I suspect the Olive Festival is an acquired taste. I cannot find fault with the organisation other than it being less child friendly than the programme had indicated. There was clear signage all over the Valley indicating the various venues participating including those not on the passport, and the offerings available were, for the most part, delicious.
But for me the very appeal of the Riebeeck valley is its otherworldliness, its measured pace of life. If the Olive Festival is a means to promoting the area as a destination, it succeeded perfectly. But I strongly suggest you don’t just go there for the festival. Go this weekend, or the next. Or perhaps the one after…
By Jana van Heerden
The Olive Festival took place 5 and 6 May 2012.