Without doubt the Nautical Festival is the biggest and certainly one of the most important events on the St Francis Calendar. Some may argue that Billy’s Beach is the biggest event but this simply isn’t so for Billy’s is a business offering a holiday venue facility that caters primarily for a captured audience of holidaymakers that are already here rather than being the reason why people will be attracted to the area as does the Nautical Festival.

On Tuesday we commented in our snippets column that the event might not have been all that it could have been by way of support of local business. It seems we did not articulate what we meant very well for it certainly wasn’t meant to infer that the event was not a success but rather how much more successful it can become if the community and business in the region work together in the coming year to make it a bigger and better event. A few businesses aside, many local businesses benefit greatly from any event that attracts so many visitors to St Francis. Whether it be by way of increased occupancy in B&B’s, more meals served up in restaurants or simply money spent in shops buying fashion goods, medicines, food or having a relaxing beauty treatment, in one way or another the festival benefits business and thus the community.

To paraphrase Executive Mayor Daphne Kettledas in her festival opening speech “we hope your event grows bigger and bigger as the sky is the limit and we hope and that you will reach out to all of Kouga to come to this event”. Well the Nautical Festival has the potential of reaching out way beyond the borders of Kouga, particularly as it is held in a perfect window of two public holidays three days apart offering an extended long weekend, year after year. Certainly the festival is attracting visitors not only Port Elizabeth but also from George, Knysna, Plett and other Southern Cape towns. As the festival grows it is sure to start attracting visitors from even farther afield and with more financial support from business, more events of the quality of those over this past weekend will be introduced and who knows, even include some big name entertainers or events. The sky is the limit and there is no reason why the Nautical Festival cannot become bigger than the Knysna Festival, the Outdshoorn KKNK or the JBay Festival. St Francis has more to offer than any other destination in the Eastern Cape.

Many of the big events held around the country are organised by professional event organisers who benefit handsomely from their efforts. So very special accolades need to be passed on to Janet Harrison and her small but very capable team of Marrisor van Niekerk and Bridget Rodgers who not only put together a great festival programme of events but also worked tirelessly in raising sponsorship for the event and organising the event. To further challenge this already arduous task they all still had to carry on with their full time jobs making their efforts all the more admirable. Well done ladies.

To review all the events on the programme simply is not possible but worth mentioning was the enthusiasm of the DJ’s and MC Michael Arthur who seemed to have endless energy keeping the crowd entertained throughout. To those who did not experience all or some of the events we would suggest you go and take a look at the superb collection of photographs on the Infocus Facebook site to get a feel of what they missed if they were unable to get to the port over the weekend. The facebook page can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/InFocusJBay and clearly illustrate just what a showcase this event is and why it has all the credentials to grow into a major attraction, something desperately needed by St Francis as we enter the quieter winter months when tourism declines quite significantly.

One attraction that would be good to see join the festival is the monthly Morning Market. Last Saturday was quite depleted as several stalls decided to sell their wares at the in the market set up in port. It does not make a lot of sense to dilute the market and hopefully a compromise can be reached for next year’s event with possibly the normal market day being delayed by a week thus allowing those who want to be at the festival to not miss out on their normal trade. There is also no reason why other flea market vendors, even from as far off as Gauteng and KZN, as is the case at the KKNK, cannot be invited to add to the products on offer.

It takes time to build a reputation for an event and certainly the Nautical Festival is cementing its place on the Eastern Cape calendar growing bigger and better each year. The Grahamstown Festival didn’t happen overnight but now that it has established itself it attracts huge sponsorship support. Certainly the events of the two festivals are very different but St Francis has much to offer a broader potential audience than any Eastern Cape detination. So come on St Francis business owners, set aside an allocation in your budget next year to support the Nautical Festival.

Tomorrow – Janet Harrison’s wonderful award initiative.