Stars on show for Invercargill Matariki Festival
Esk St will come alive this weekend with in Invercargill's first Matariki Festival celebration.
Invercargill City Council's city centre coordinator Kari Graber said the city needed something to celebrate New Zealand's own culture.
Matariki Festivals were appearing all over the country, Graber said.
This was the first year the council was running a Matariki Festival, although other community groups had run events in the past, she said.
The council planned to one day have an Invercargill Winter festival, she said.
First, they wanted to try something essential to New Zealand history, and they intended to hold the Matariki Festival annually, Graber said.
"We need to do more on what we are. There's a really big Maori culture down here."
Invercargill public library community connections coordinator Jay Coote said Matariki could be thought of as New Zealand's version of Christmas.
"It gives New Zealand its own identity rather than playing off a mixture of other cultures around the world."
Coote would run a Stardome at the Scottish Hall from 1pm-5pm, a projected view of stars with a focus on Maori star lore.
On Tuesday, Graber and Coote were decorating the children's library with handmade kites made to mark the festival.
"Kites were part of the tradition and people use to use kites to communicate wih family members who've passed," she said.
"They would normally make them out of grasses and flax."
Esk St would be closed to traffic for the event.
The event aimed to encourage patronage of the city centre.
Graber said retailers were positive about the event and decorated their store windows with the hundreds of kites made by children, or with lights and stars.
June to August were traditionally slower months for retail, Graber said.
"My hope is this will help stimulate sales, as well as provide a great community mid-winter event."
The Festival, on Saturday, would include a street market and food trucks in Esk St, Kapa Haka, weaving and poi making workshops and carving demonstrations by Steve Solomon and Oti Murray.
There would be live music throughout the day, with a fire show in Esk St at 5.30pm.
All activities are free to the public.