Moonshine on move, a toast to its popularity

A popular Southland festival celebrating illicit whisky is relocating to make room for increasing crowds and its date has also been pushed back a month to avoid a "bottleneck" of events.

The Hokonui Moonshiners' Festival will be moved to the Southern Field Days site at Waimumu, near Gore, and held on March 23 rather than in February.

The annual event toasts bootleg whisky-making after a vote for prohibition in the Mataura electorate in 1902 led to the closure of 15 licensed hotels and a 51-year "drought" in Southland.

Festival committee spokesman Jim Geddes said crowds of up to 2000 people had been crammed into the Gore Arts and Heritage Precinct for the past 11 years and it was time to expand.

"The feedback we were getting was that people wanted to see it grow and clearly there was no room for that in the precinct."

A larger site was likely to attract big bands and meant that the concept of a themed food and whisky festival could be expanded, he said.

Later in the year a shed would be built as a wet-weather alternative at the site which overlooks the Hokonui Hills, the home to many illicit whisky stills in the prohibition years.

February was a busy time of year and pushing the date back a month would be better for volunteers, stall-holders and organisers, he said.

The event offers all-day entertainment and a range of local foods, with last year's dishes ranging from whisky-infused onion jam on sweet breads to the more traditional Southland foods such as lamb's fry and venison.

Former Tokanui singer-songwriter Annah Mac will headline the event alongside Kiwi band Opshop, while Central Otago country singers Jody Direen and Craig Adams will be the support acts.

Tickets will be sold online at from early next year.

The Southland Times