Fearless punters face wild food challenge
Fearless palates have faced their annual challenge today at the 24th Hokitika Wildfoods Festival.
Organisers said about 12,000 attended the small West Coast township's biggest event, several thousand more than originally predicted, with the queue stretching two blocks down to the town clock at one stage.
Many arrived from Canterbury but plenty travelled from further afield, including those on a special Air New Zealand plane from Wellington.
It wasn't all about gore and guts with plenty of tasty treats for more sedate appetites, but a surprising diversity dared to sample mountain oysters (sheep testicles), live crickets, huhu grubs and other creepy crawly delights.
Event manager Mike Keenan said a few offerings were definitely off his menu and destined for hardier souls than him.
However, Westland mayor Maureen Pugh admitted she had sampled a live cricket and stallion sperm at previous events.
But she said it didn't matter how much she chewed, the cricket still felt ''like rolling flax around in your mouth''.
Local Hokitika lass Emily Garside, 6, was determined to try a live huhu grub for the first time, putting hardy lads to shame with her brave chomping.
''It tastes a bit juicy,'' she said after casually biting a wriggling grub's head off.
Entertainment kept the crowd happy in the sunshine, including an aerobatics display by the Royal New Zealand Air Force's Red Checkers aerobatics team this afternoon.
Over the years, more and more donned wild costumes to get into the vibe, a mini Wellington's Rugby Sevens, and worth it with a $1000 travel prize handed over for the best dressed.
The Curly Tree Whitebait stall offered a spot prize of a cooked freshly caught crayfish for the most festival participant.
The main event finishes at 5.30pm today but four bands tonight at the Cass Square site will keep festival goers happy until the wee hours tomorrow.
Pugh said the event's financial benefit was huge with a study showing $6.5 million trickled down into the local economy each year with many stall holders fundraising for community groups.