Organisers of the Bluff Oyster and Food Festival yesterday said there was no way they could have predicted the disaster that struck on Saturday.
Organisers and festival-goers were left scrambling as what has been described as the worst weather to hit Bluff in 15 years, tore through the festival, sending furniture flying, collapsing signs, and forcing the cancellation of the event partway through the festivities.
Thousands were then trapped in the town as powerlines blocked the Bluff Highway for about two hours.
Festival-goer Sharon Munroe, from Taupo, said the weather and the chaos that ensued was "very scary".
The tent she was huddled in with hundreds of others was creaking and being thrashed by the wind, and the steel looked like it was beginning to bend, she said.
"It was just all bending, it was really, really scary."
However, festival committee member Kylie Fowler said there was no way organisers could have predicted the severity of the weather any earlier.
The forecast had been for bad weather in the afternoon but nothing like what happened, she said.
The morning had been lovely and the front had swept in "something shocking", catching everyone out, she said.
She believed it was the worst weather to hit Bluff in about 15 years.
Festival committee chairman John Edminston said shutting down the festival was extremely disappointing, but safety had been paramount.
The festival attracted about 5000, with many gathering early, waiting for the gates to open.
At 11am the Bluff Oyster was piped into the venue and local identity Spencer Morrison recited the Ode To The Oyster.
The Bluff School Kapa Haka group was warmly received as was singer Anika Moa.
Aurora College student Sa'hayla Harden won the Kayes Bakery Creativity Awards supreme award with her creation New Zealand Mother Bird, fashioned from vibrant blue panne with black ribbons and oyster shells and a blue, green painted toetoe which opened into the wings of a mother bird.
Sa'hayla's creation won the Foveaux Fantasy Secondary Section while other section winners were Sera Lavea and Luisa Kuresa in the Adults Foveaux Fantasy, Sharleen Kiff, in the Adults Oyster Sack Fashion, and Jorden Payne & Brooke-Biahn Bradshaw of Bluff School, in the Primary School Section. email@example.com
- The Southland Times