Lakes festival attracts tourists - to work

00:13, Feb 18 2013

Coming all the way from Turkey to cook dolma, borek and lamb-filled pita bread at Festival Nelson Lakes yesterday was done in the name of friendship.

Three women from Izmir, on Turkey's west coast, are holidaying in New Zealand, and timed their visit so they could help a friend, Jennifer Sloots, at the festival.

Zehra Gunicen met Mrs Sloots 20 years ago in the Netherlands, when they were working as tour guides. "She came to Turkey many times and we went many places together," she said.

Mrs Gunicen came to New Zealand for a holiday in 1997 and was impressed.

"I told my friends [Nursen Gezen and Halide Sungur], ‘New Zealand is a beautiful place, we must go, we must go'."

When Mrs Sloots told her that their visit would coincide with the festival, Mrs Gunicen was delighted.


"OK, fine, we can come and help you," she said.

Customers would have been unaware of the personal touch that went into the dolma. The Turkish trio went to a Marlborough winery to get the vine leaves they needed.

"We picked the leaves with our own hands, one by one," Mrs Gunicen said. "It was hard, but it was fun."

Roving Irish musician Colm MacAnCrossan, from Dublin, provided a varied performance on banjo, guitar, bodhran and tin whistles. His performance was punctuated with a lot of craick, and he played on despite being stung on the finger by a bumblebee.

The range of stalls and activities reflected the many diverse groups that make up the St Arnaud community. Visits to the restored historic Kea Hut were well received. Demonstrations of fly fishing casting, and information about pest control and Nelson Lakes National Park were popular.

Authors were on hand to discuss their books on the area's history, and visitors enjoyed flights in a two-seater plane. High tea was available at the historic Tophouse Guesthouse to top off the day.

Destination Nelson Lakes secretary and committee member Helen Campbell said the day was "brilliant". She paid tribute to artist Jan Thomson, Anne Boyd, Sarah Calder and Chris Richards for the work they had put in.

It was the second annual festival, with all proceeds going to local emergency services.