I’ve been a terrible blogger recently and haven’t written anything for weeks (weeks? More like months – whoops!). And it’s not because I have nothing to write about – I’ve just been busy, lazy, sick, or throwing myself into new sewing projects. But, it is about time that I rectify that and jump back into the realm of blogging and what better way to do that but to return to my tale of last year’s Oamaru Victorian Heritage Celebrations.
I headed down to the Information Centre to collect my tickets – a very important errand to run of course. Arriving shortly after they opened I found that there was a tourist couple already there, asking about the various sights and activities around the Waitaki District. While the wife chatted to one of the staff, the husband asked if it was okay to take a little video of me, which was fine, though I doubt standing and waiting to be served would have made for interesting viewing.
Once the couple had been seen to I stepped up to the counter to collect my tickets. The two very lovely staff members complimented me and we got chatting about dressing up and Victorian costume. Having a spare poster for the show I asked if it was okay to drop it off the next time that I went by so it could be displayed on their notice board. They were more than happy to oblige, which was super lovely of them.
I stopped in the the cafe next door for a coffee. I’ve been in there so many times over the years I don’t even think about the fact I’m in costume. Most of the time, no one bats an eyelid but as I was walking towards the door I overheard a patron comment to another that there was ‘something weird going on in town.’
This comment kept me amused for my walk back to the Empire where I sipped my coffee and watched the clock impatiently until the Victorian Wardrobe opened. Arming myself with a poster for the I-Site and another for the Wardrobe I set off towards the Precinct.
After dropping the first poster off I made my way to the Victorian Wardrobe. I ran into a gentleman that I have crossed paths with on several occasions but we were both headed in different directions and both had things to do so only had the briefest of chats. Then, as I entered Harbour Street I heard a ‘hello Nicola’ from across the street where Frances McMillan, the Fete Co-Ordinator, was passing by.
‘Goodness,’ I thought, ‘I think more people know me here than at home!’
I stepped in to the Victorian Wardrobe where the ladies were already busy at work, getting ready for an onslaught of customers seeking out ensembles to wear or to pick up ones they had pre-selected.
I had booked a crinoline cage and a bustle cage for the Historical Fashion Show so that it was possible to show the audience what was going on underneath and how the different fashionable silhouettes were created. I was also offered a crinolette, which was an absolutely perfect addition to the line up. And, the Wardrobe so very kindly lent the cages to me free of charge (the only cost, they said, was to mention that they were from the Wardrobe). I thanked them very much and, after figuring out the easiest way to carry them I started back towards my accommodation to store them safely in my room.
What a sight I must have been! A lady parading down the street, unashamedly carrying undergarments! This thought amused me very much though not many people were around at that time of the morning. As I reached the entrance of The Empire I spotted Russell standing outside and he joked about the non-ladylikeness of it. Lorna and Jacqui were just inside, and told me they were on their way to collect their tickets and explore the Precint.
After carefully storing the cages in my room, I joined them. Though, it wasn’t long before I had lost them as we passed Carol setting out her display penny farthing outside The Photo Shoppe. Carol is one of the first friendly faces I got to know through the Heritage Celebrations so we had a good chat and I promised that I would definitely come and see her for my final photo (she has now retired so it was her last Celebrations of taking portrait photos).
I did a loop of the Precinct, looking for my previous companions and eventually found them in Nana Bangles, one of the stores. Lorna had just found Russell a pair of trousers which he was now sporting. A few shops later and he also acquired a new flat cap. Lorna also made a purchase of a new pair of gloves.
We stopped at the Collective Cafe for refreshments and it was soon time to meet Maria and pay a visit to Whitestone City.
We were welcomed to Whitestone City by Iain who chatted to us for a while, told us a little about the place, and took a couple of group photos before setting us loose to explore. It makes me quite sad that, at the time of writing this, Whitestone City is no more, having just recently closing its doors, because it truly was a fantastic set-up. We inspected the shops in the streetscape and watched the projected display on the model of the Criterion (I believe the person responsible for that is linked to Weta so no wonder it was so well done). The dresses on display were next and of interest, of course, to the majority of us.
And, we simply could not pass the Penny Farthing Carousel by without indulging in some photos and attempting to sit on the Penny Farthings with various results. As we ladies were not properly attired for cycling, side saddle was a popular choice, to accommodate our skirts and petticoats.
The horse and wagon also presented a fantastic photo opportunity.
We inspected the games and piano in the pub.
In the classroom we read the rules for teachers and found that none of us would have held on to our jobs for very long. While looking at the list of punishments for students, Lorna convinced me to try the finger-stocks, which while obviously restrictive, weren’t so bad as I could rest my hands on my bustle. Once freed from those I decided to try and look as no-nonsense teacher-y as possible (because, drawing cats is a very serious business).
The guides came to check on us every now and then and told us that they could tell exactly where we were by following the laughter, and as our visit drew to a close, Heather showed us the hats that had just arrived from Liz Ende. There was a tour option that included the chance to dress up so we got to inspect the new hats as well as the dresses and suits that they had a collection of. Funnily enough, some dresses I recognised as belonging to historical costumers I know who sometimes sell their costumes on Trademe when making space for new projects.
Our visit drew to a close and I spent a little more time with Lorna, Russell, and Jacqui before they headed to a high tea and I returned to my accommodation. Liane and Hannah had just arrived and unloaded their car so we sat and chatted for a while before they retreated to their room to get ready for the Grand Opening. Back in my own room I had a small rest and did a little bit more preparation for the Fashion Show.
The Grand Opening and Gentlemen’s Relish
The foyer was already filled with many familiar faces, as well as some new ones. Many hellos were exchanged and people caught up with people they had not seen since the previous year as platters of nibbles circulated. I met Anne and Dianne, two lovely ladies, both from Wellington, who were in Oamaru for the Heritage Celebrations for the first time. They were so excited to be there and looking forward to the next few days.
After the opening speeches, a chance to look at the Photo Recreation Entries, and a few more hellos, a group of us headed to the Star and Garter for some dinner. That was followed by the Cycle Club Meeting which was an hour or so of songs and such. A fairly tame start to the evening considering the next event of the evening – The Gentlemen’s Relish.
We met Cheryl and her group of friends as we walked down Harbour Street to the Loan and Merc so there was quite a cluster of us arriving all at once. When looking for seating I spotted Maree and Scott and ran over to say hello and give Maree a big hug. They had saved me a seat and the rest of the group were able to find seats in the same area. Liane and Hannah sat behind us and while we waited for the show to start we all caught up a bit with everyone’s news. There was still so much to say when the show began and we had to hush and turn to face the stage.
The Gentlemen’s Relish is an event designed to show what sorts of entertainment existed for those who weren’t of the upper class and the evening consisted of burlesque, magic tricks, dance, and circus performance. While not my usual scene, it was still an enjoyable evening and I couldn’t help feeling like an upper class young lady who had sneaked out to see what it was all about. A little bit out of place but enjoying it nonetheless.
After parting ways with our group, Liane, Hannah and I walked back to our accommodation through the deserted Precinct, leaving the noisier patrons behind us at the entrance of the Loan and Merc. The first day of the Celebrations had been done and dusted and we were all buzzing about the fact we had all arrived and that the events had begun. We couldn’t wait for the next few days and for all the joys and delights that were in store.
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Oamaru Victorian Heritage Celebrations 2019: Part 4 – coming soon!