Performing artists from China, Portugal and South Africa, aerobatics pilots from around the country, and residents of the Garden Route’s favourite harbour town are ready to celebrate Mossel Bay’s annual Dias Festival from the 29th of January to the 1st of February, 2015.
The event takes place by tradition on a date close to the anniversary of the arrival of Bartolomeu Dias (3 February, 1488) – hence the theme: ‘Where cultures meet.’
Zhejiang Wu Opera Troupe
“It’s difficult to single out any one performer or group from our line-up of stars – which includes a band from Germany and guest performers from Portugal and Indonesia, who will appear courtesy of the Portuguese and Indonesia Consuls General – but we’re particularly excited that the Chinese Consul General has arranged for the Zhejiang Wu Opera Troupe to appear at the Festival,” said Mossel Bay’s Municipal Manager, Michele Gratz.
The Troupe is famous for its traditional dragon dancing, nimble acrobatics, colourful costumes, and rhythmic music.
According to the Smithsonian Institution, Wu opera has “a history spanning more than four centuries” and it “originated in Wuzhou, now Jinhua, in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province… Founded in 1956, the Zhejiang Wu Opera Troupe has both revived traditional works and created new works.” The troupe has performed in countries around the world. (Watch a video of their performance at the 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival on YouTube.).
Dr. Gratz said that the Troupe will perform in the festival arena at Santos Caravan Park on Friday and Saturday as part of a full programme of entertainment that will also feature Portuguese, Indonesian, German, and South African artists, and will run from Friday morning till Sunday afternoon.
“Entry to the festival arena is free of charge, and we’re hoping that the people of Mossel Bay will turn out in large numbers to welcome all our guests,” she said. She noted, too, that a selection of artists will also perform at Langeberg Mall on Friday Morning.
Dr. Gratz. said that the Festival will include both an airshow, and the Western Cape Aerobatics Championships
The airshow will include fly-pasts by the Harvards of the country’s premier aerial displays team – the Eqstra Flying Lions Formation Team (Scully Levin, Arnie Meneghelli, Ellis Levin, and Sean Thackwray), as well as Patrick Davidson in his World War II Mustang P51 fighter-bomber.
“If conditions allow, we’re expecting the Harvards to make a nighttime fly-past on Friday, and, if we’re lucky, a Kulula.com passenger jet will make a fly-past at about 8:45 on Saturday morning, too,” said Dr. Gratz.
She added that a commentator will explain what’s happening in the sky via the public address system at the festival arena, and that a team of parachutists will perform a flag jump carrying the flags of the seven nations taking part in the Festival.
According to Contest Director Jacques Du Plooy, the Western Cape Aerobatics Championships, which will take place at the Mossel Bay Airfield, have attracted three of South Africa’s top pilots: Nigel Hopkins, Mark Hensman, and Patrick Davidson – all of whom have enjoyed podium finishes in the past.
“Patrick was SA Champion in 2014, and came third in the World Championships last year; Nigel placed second in the Worlds in 2010, and he was SA Champion in 2013; and Mark is also a past South African Champion,” said Mr. du Plooy. He said, too, that the competition will be judged by a panel of international judges led by John Gaillard, the vice-president and chief judge of the International Aerobatics Commission (CIVA) and the vice-president for the Africa region of the World Air Sports Federation (FAI).
Pilots from as far afield as Cape Town, Bloemfontein, and Johannesburg will take part in the competition, which will be flown in the Sportsman, Intermediate, Advanced, and Unlimited Classes.
“Entry to the airfield will be free of charge for any member of the public who is interested in the sport of aerobatics, and there’ll be plenty of us there who’ll be delighted to meet you and explain to you what it’s all about,” said Mr. du Plooy.
Dr. Gratz said that the Festival’s traditional fireworks – pyrotechnics – display will take place at the Festival arena at 8:00 p.m. on Friday.
“We’re sensitive to the fact that many dogs don’t enjoy fireworks, so dog owners are invited to collect herbal tranquilizers free of charge for their pets from our sponsor, the Santos Express Train Lodge, on Santos Beach,” she said.
Free entry to the Bartolomeu Dias Museum
Members of the public are invited to enjoy the Dias Museum’s 26th birthday celebration at 10:30 on Sunday morning, 1 February. The programme will include an address by the Mayor of Mossel Bay, Alderlady Marie Ferreira, a performance by the visiting Portuguese dancers, and the cutting and sharing of a traditional giant birthday cake. Entrance to the museum will be free for the whole day. •