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July 03, 2012

Winter wonderland in the Cape’s Gordon’s Bay

This magical sunset set the mood for Gordon's Bay's Winter Wonderland festival. Photo courtesy Bill Corcoran

The global economic recession has not been kind to small businesses in South Africa that rely on tourism, so when I heard the Gordon’s Bay Business Forum was putting on a festival to invigorate the beach town during its slow season, I was keen to attend.

And after spending last Saturday evening taking in the sights and sounds of the Gordon’s Bay Winter Wonderland festival, I can report it was truly heartening to see the community spirit on show in the small town tucked away in False Bay’s eastern corner.

Most of the businesses and restaurants along Gordon’s Bay's beachfront road, the town’s main thoroughfare, were draped in fairy lights to add a magical air to the three-day festival, which began on Friday June 29 and ran until July 1.

Celebrating winter was the festival theme and, while I meandered past the shops, bars and restaurants, glühwein, hot chocolate and roasted chestnuts on sale to the thousands of people that thronged the streets.

In addition, there were arts and crafts, an enchanted ghost house – which had queues of people stretching 50 deep down the street – a fun fair, and a live music marquee to entertain those who ventured out for the night.

The town’s landmark, Milkwood Trail, was the most impressive festival attraction for me. Each Milkwood tree had fairy lights wrapped around its branches, and this created a truly enchanting atmosphere for people who walked the hundred metres or so along the path next to the beach.

A couple enjoying the fairy lights on the Milkwood Trail. Photo courtesy Bill Corcoran

However, a close second was the delicious glühwein one innovative small business owner brewed up and sold by the glass from outside her premises. I found that after a couple of glasses of mulled wine, the live bands and street buskers became infinitely more entertaining – funny that, eh?

Margot Paulsen, the chief organiser of the second annual Gordon’s Bay Winter Wonderland festival, told me that the motivation for their street party was the locals’ frustration at seeing their town not benefiting in a tourism sense from its temperate winter climate.

“Ten years ago everything was buzzing in Gordon’s Bay, but there are not as many visitors coming here in the off-season any more. So two years ago we decided to do something about it, and the festival was born. This year, it really has taken off and we are delighted with the public response,” she said.

So what can we expect next year? Only time will tell, but if that glühwein is available again I may well find out.

One of the Gordon's Bay Business Forum members selling glühwein outside her shop in the heart of the town. Photo courtesy Bill Corcoran

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