Carrying on from Part 1 of my adventures in Oamaru at the Hertiage Celebrations last year…
As exhausted as I was from my late night I still woke up reasonably early which was slightly annoying. Fortunately, with nothing scheduled until the Grand Parade I had no real reason to rush getting ready.
After taking my time to get myself put together I wandered down to the Historic Precinct and soon found my fellow suffragettes amongst the gathering groups of parade participants. Reuniting with Elizabeth and Pauline, who invited me years ago to join them, I was handed a flag to wave about as the placards had all been claimed. We milled about for a while, posing for photos, and speaking to other people, waiting to be told where we were to be walking when the parade began.
We took our place behind the ladies from the Victorian Wardrobe (I love their work!) and waited for the pipe band to strike up and lead on. Starting from the end of Harbour Street we moved towards Tyne Street. As we neared the onlookers based there, encouraged by the event organisers, we suffragettes took up our chants, demanding the vote.
You can even see us (briefly) in action here.
This we carried on down Tyne, Itchen and then onto Thames Street. Occasional slights were yelled at us in jest and were quickly rebutted by our group. Cheryl, one of the ladies I got to know a lot better that year, and one of my tablemates from the ball, was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. She led many of our chants, scolded husbands and fathers, and encouraged women spectators to join our cause. Being a reserved person, I definitely felt more confident joining in with the chants because of her.
Once we returned to our starting point the parade participants slowly dispersed. We found Tracey, Claire, and Kathryn, as well as Lindsey and Edan and caught up with them for a bit before Edan offered to take photos for us.
We also found Monique about this time, as our new Auckland friends continued on their way to look at some shops. Soon the idea of paying a visit to the Criterion was floated so we made our way there for a drink and a chance to sit down. Finding the sitting room conveniently empty, we quickly made ourselves at home and hung out for a while chatting until Edan and Monique left to visit Totara Estate.
We left the Criterion soon after that and I had barely gone three steps when I was stopped by an Australian woman who asked me what dress patterns I had used and where I purchased them from. I told her that I had bought the Truly Victorian patterns online and she started to tell me about her plans to turn an ancestral home in Oamaru into a family museum for her grandchildren and their cousins. She was thinking of having some dress ups for them and that’s why she wanted to know where she could acquire patterns from.
Then, she told me that she was very impressed by the time and skill that so many of the ladies had put into their outfits and thought that there should be a fashion competition like the Fashion in the Field competitions in Australia. I had to disagree with her there and just said that we didn’t do that and the focus was more on having a go and getting involved (little did I know then what would happen the following day….). We were interrupted then by one of the Criterion staff asking us if either of us had lost a glove? No, we hadn’t, but I filed it away in the back of my mind in case I did come across anyone who had.
An ice cream from Deja Moo is always on my Must Do in Oamaru list so the three of us paid them a visit and found a seat in the shade along Harbour Street to enjoy them while watching some of the penny farthing racing. Unfortunately, as is the case of being in costume while trying to eat something, I did spot someone taking our photo as we enjoyed our treat (why, why must people do that? My only hope was that I was still looking ladylike… almost, but not quite…)
As we were enjoying our ice creams I spotted my parents and ran down to say hello and they told me that they weren’t going to be at the fete the next day because they were attending one more open home and then returning home themselves. I had forgotten Mum’s Christmas earrings in my room so we arranged to meet the next day by the fete gates before they left so I could give them to her.
On returning to Liane and Cheryl, we poked about some of the shops before heading back to our accommodation to put our feet up for a bit. Being such a beautiful day, however, I suggested taking a turn about the Botanic Gardens. Liane wanted to rest for a while. Cheryl and I went down however for a stroll before parting ways as she returned to her accommodation and I to mine.
I had a bit of time to put my feet up before heading off to my evening engagement. I had managed to secure a ticket to NO Productions Theatre Collective’s performance of Turn of the Screw. I read the book for one of my university papers and, to be honest, it is a thoroughly frustrating novel because of its ambiguity but, as frustrating as I found it, the chance to see it performed was too good to pass up.
I arrived at the Opera House a bit early and had the chance to sit nursing a coffee while watching other members of the audience arrived. Uh oh… everyone who was walking through the door was wearing completely normal clothes. Some were dressed in more theatre-y outfits but I was starting to feel very out of place. Then I saw a couple walk in, in Victorian fashion and felt a small wave of relief.
I walked over and asked the lady if we were ‘overdressed or if everyone else was under-dressed?’ ‘Oh, everyone else is under-dressed,’ she replied and then we played that fun game of ‘I know you – I’ve seen you around here but I can’t quite place you’.
The performance was incredibly well done and, despite only two actors being involved and minimal props being used, I felt so drawn in that I barely noticed. Being familiar with the story helped because I knew how it was all going to play out but, it was really fascinating to see how it had been interpreted. I was definitely feeling quite satisfied with my decision to attend by the time I walked back to my accommodation, hoping to get a decent sleep so that I could face the fete feeling refreshed.
Sunday always arrives feeling bittersweet because even though the fete is always so much fun, it is the last day. 10 am to 4 pm passes by so quickly as well so I always like to be passing through the gates as close to 10 am as possible. It also gives me a chance to do a bit of recon and make note of what and where all of the stalls are before it gets really busy.
It didn’t take long for me to find Honey and Spice, one of my favourite stalls, that I buy from every year. I said hello as I was passing and told them that I would be back later to smell their soaps (I think they’re used to me doing that now…) and continued on my way. As part of my circuit, I wandered into the adjacent Farmers’ Market to see what those stalls had to offer as well. There was a large stall at the end selling meat which I made sure to avoid but two of the young men there both called out to try and entice me to buy from them.
I politely shook my head no as I turned away and heard the most interesting exchange:
‘I like those things that stick out the back.’
‘That’s a bustle.’
I was quite pleasantly surprised that one of them actually knew what a ladies’ fashion trend that only existed in two decades in the nineteenth century was called. I suppose I should give them more credit as they were probably locals and probably quite used to seeing them once a year. It’s just a shame that they were peddling meat…
I headed back towards the fete stalls, making my way back to the entrance to meet up with Liane. The proper stall perusal began, and as we were walking together one of the event volunteers stopped us.
‘Did we want to be part of the fashion parade?’ she asked before telling us when and where it would be. I’ve taken part in the fashion parade a few times when it was held in the Scottish Hall and loved that it gave visitors the chance to see a lot of the different Victorian fashions on a catwalk. This year, however, it was to be held on the ‘main stage’ on the street. Given that there wasn’t much room on that stage, I wondered how it was supposed to work this time around. Despite not knowing the full details, we both agreed to take part.
Apart from the stalls selling everything from antiques to handmade crafts to food, there are a lot of different performances during the day and one performance that caught my attention was the Twisty Twinz. Should humans even be that flexible? They were amazing to watch and, as I had come across their performance halfway through I checked the programme and made a mental note to come back for their afternoon show.
The crazy thing about the fete being so busy is that quite often you miss running into friends for quite some time until you suddenly find yourself in the same place at the same time. This was the case when we met up with Edan and Monique near the Criterion sometime after bumping into Cheryl. Monique told us that she has misplaced one of her gloves and I remembered that someone had found one in the Criterion. Edan hurried inside triumphantly moments later with Monique’s lost glove. Definitely a case of being in the right place at the right time.
Soon it was time for the fashion parade… or so we thought… the Beard and Moustache competition ran over its allocated time by quite a lot so we ended up hovering near the stage until it was finally over. I still didn’t have any idea how this parade was supposed to work – were we to go up on the stage one by one, take a turn and descend the stairs for the next person? And, where was everybody? There were normally a lot more people taking part…
We were all herded onto the stage and I started feeling a tad claustrophobic being in such a small space with so many people. The ‘host’ of the fashion parade welcomed the audience and all of the people on the stage and as she started to interview people one by one about what they were wearing I started to get really nervous. Yes, I can quite easily don historical clothing, walk about, and talk to people about what I’m wearing but on a stage, when I’m not prepared, on full display in front of a sea of faces? Not so much…
I can’t even remember what I said when I was asked where I was from, what I was wearing, and if I made it myself. I just remember feeling very uncomfortable and wishing the questions would stop. I was so relieved when there were finally no more questions left and I could shuffle over a bit while it became Liane’s turn. Once everyone had been interviewed I was so ready to leave the stage but then, to my horror, I discovered that this was actually a competition and we all had to stand one by one at the front of the stage while the audience voted by applause.
I was actually surprised to get applause and as much of it as I did, considering that I was still so new to sewing and that I was wearing my first ever me-made outfit. Still, I was so grateful to step off that stage after it was all over. But, was it over? People started coming up to me and being all sympathetic because I didn’t win. I honestly didn’t mind because I had never chosen to enter in the first place, and it was very odd to have people treating me like I was disappointed.
The only competition that should exist during the fete is the annual Oamaru Stone Sawing Competition. It has been run for so many years and attracts so many spectators and competitors. It’s really amazing to watch and, as someone who once had to carve Oamaru Stone at school and only succeeded in turning her cube into a cube with slightly rounded corners, I am very impressed to see some of the competitors saw through a massive block of it with such ease.
Cheryl and Liane threw their names in for the Women’s Doubles and as we were standing around waiting for their event and watching other competitors I got a message from my mother that they were coming to the entrance to meet me and say their goodbyes. Fortunately, I had remembered Mum’s Christmas earrings so I could hand them over and say fare thee well until Christmas and hoped that they would have a safe journey home.
I made it back to the stone sawing in time to cheer Cheryl and Liane on as they sawed their way to second equal, proving that a corset is not as restrictive as people believe. After they dusted themselves off we walked up the road a bit to watch the Twisty Twinz second performance.
The day started to wind down then, the crowd began to thin and I was just starting to think that I had missed out on my annual photo with Carol from The Photo Shoppe when I spotted her, packed up for the day. Still, I went over to say hello and have a chat because she’s one of the first people I met in Oamaru and she’s always so lovely. Then, rather unexpectedly, she unpacked her camera and led me on a quest to find a good place to take my photo.
And it was perfect. She’s had me in different poses before but this time she gave my the direction of having my hands on my hips with my foot turned out. And it just worked. I look so confident and also really proud of myself, which is what I had been feeling throughout the celebrations, wearing something that I had made, something that I really liked, and felt so comfortable wearing.
By the time I had my photo in hand most of the historic precinct had emptied out (no doubt helped by the very-out-of-place heavy-metal-or-something-like-it live music….), so I headed back to my room to sit quietly for a while. I sat for a while with the window open, enjoying the gentle breeze until Liane turned up and we both started our mammoth tasks of packing everything up.
Fortunately for us, that was soon interrupted because it was time to head out for our farewell dinner with Maree, Scott, Monique, and Edan. It was such a fun and lovely dinner and we were still sitting at our table talking and laughing, long after we had all finished eating. As much as we were enjoying our time, I think we were all also trying to delay the inevitable of saying goodbye, parting ways, and returning to reality.
After some time, however, we were standing outside the restaurant doing just that, saddened that the four days of fun had drawn to a close. But also, on the other hand, beginning the countdown for the following year, knowing that goodbye was just ‘see you later’.