Eight Great South Africa Festivals to Attend Before, During, and After the World Cup

South Africa is well-renowned for its diversity and multiculturalism. Dubbed ‘The Rainbow Nation’ by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the country bursts with colour and vibrancy. And what better way to experience the vivacity of South Africa than to take in some of the country’s top festivals during the Soccer World Cup. Here is a list of the country’s top eight winter celebrations.

Greyton Winter Classical Music Festival

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A classical music festival has been held in the picturesque town of Greyton in the Western Cape Province for the past 5 years. Recently the festival fused with the annual Greyton Winter Festival to produce an event that celebrates classical music, fine art and fabulous food and wine.

The Greyton Winter Classical Music Festival is a not-to-be-missed event that takes place from the June 12-13, 2010. During this time, five concerts are staged by some of the country’s top classical musicians including regular festival-performer Zanne Stapelberg who shares the stage with Minette Du Toit-Pearce, violinist Suzanne Martens and the South African Youth Choir who will be performing under the baton of Andre van der Merwe. The concerts take place at the Moravian churches in Greyton and the nearby town of Genadendal as well as in the Greyton Dutch Reformed Church.

Apart from the highly-recommended classical music concerts, the festival will also host a number of art exhibitions with contributions from Derric van Rensburg, Volga White, Johannes du Plessis, and others. All of these artists have either lived in Greyton or have helped put the town on the map as the Art Capitol of the Overberg. Where there is fine art and classical music, excellent food and wine is often nearby. This case is no different, as restaurants in the area will be preparing special winter dishes and wine tasting will be on offer (see the official festival website for more).

Some of the accommodation options in Greyton include Sunset House, The Post House, The Farmhouse  and The Auberge Greyton. For more information contact Roslyn and Thembisa at the Greyton Information Bureau (+27 (0)28-254-9564 or +27 (0)28-254-9414 or visit the Greyton Tourism website). Greyton and Genadendal are situated approximately 150 kilometers from Cape Town. Take the N2 highway out of Cape Town and turn left at the R406 towards Greyton and Genadendal. Tickets for the festival are available from the Greyton Tourism Office.

The Wacky Wine Weekend Festival

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The Western Cape Province is widely-recognized as wine country, with a multitude of wine-makers establishing estates in its fertile valleys. From the 3rd to the 6th of June 2010, the Robertson Wine Valley, approximately 2 hours drive from Cape Town on the R60, will showcase the superb produce of these cape vines. The Wacky Wine Weekend sees more than 60 wine estates, coffee shops, tour providers and restaurants offering special deals and an assortment of fun activities including ‘meet-the-winemaker’ tastings, tractor trips, street theatre, live music, a half-marathon and bike challenge and cheese and olive-tastings, to name a few.

To include a little something for everyone from the novice to the wine connoisseur, the weekend is broken down into ‘Seriously Wine Thursday’, ‘Wine Up Friday’, ‘Full On Wacky Saturday’ and ‘Wine Down Sunday’. In addition to this, the Valley will host a foodie festival offering an assortment of tasty treats from sushi to Italian cuisine.

In order to be a part of this madcap weekend, visitors will need to purchase a passport (R70 or US$9) at the first winery on route. This entitles you to a festival program, a bottle of water, a goodie bag, an elegant tasting glass and of course free 25ml samples of the wines on display (more can be purchased per glass or bottle). For the other activities, booking is necessary (see the official website for a full program and more details). There is an emphasis on safety and responsible drinking at the Wacky Wine Weekend and a buddy bus service and designated drivers program will be implemented.

Accommodation is available in Robertson and the bordering towns of Bonnievale, McGregor or Montagu-Ashton. At this stage options may be a little scarce. There is a ‘Last Minute Forum’ on the website that contains useful information regarding places to stay. This is updated regularly. Alternatively you can email the tourism office on info@robertson.org.za or visit the Robertson Wine Valley website for more potential accommodation options.

The Grahamstown National Arts Festival

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Every year, the small settlement of Grahamstown, which lies between Port Elizabeth and East London in the Eastern Cape Province, packs in over 50000 people who come in droves to take in a selection of the 500 shows that are on offer here. They range from opera, cabaret, drama and jazz to stand-up comedy, folk music and poetry.

The Grahamstown National Arts Festival is arguably one of the most diverse events on the African continent. It runs from June 20  to the 4 July where, for 15 days, large halls become theatres and sports fields are converted into vibrant flea markets. Guests flock in from all over the country to fill up the town’s selection of bed and breakfasts, university residences and self-catering houses, and nearby luxury Big Five game reserves like Lalibela or Pumba Private Game Reserves.

Some of the highlights of this year’s festival include Inxeba Lomphilisi (The wound of a Healer), an exploration of identity and belonging through the aesthetic of African traditions, the Market Theatre’s Songs of Migration, a musical production created by the highly acclaimed trumpeter and composer, Hugh Masekela and Cinema, a dance production that pushes the boundaries of the contemporary genre.

The official website also offers a wealth of information concerning accommodation and it allows prospective visitors to design personal itineraries for their stay at the festival. Internal flights are available to the nearby Port Elizabeth Airport.

Ballito Prawn and Jazz Festival

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The Kwa-Zulu Natal north coast near Durban is a haven of warm summer beaches, laid-back coastal holiday towns and wonderful fishing spots. If your idea of an enjoyable afternoon involves scoffing down gourmet prawns and listening to jazz whilst the kids have their faces painted or challenge their friends in a mountain bike fun ride, then make sure you are in the coastal town of Ballito from the 2nd to the 4th of July 2010.

The Ballito Prawn and Jazz Festival is a new event that aims to put the up-market, carefree coastal town on the tourist map. The event takes place on the Collisheen Estate in Ballito, which is about 30 minutes drive from the city of Durban. Prawns take the centre stage and will be available in mounds, but the event also boasts a variety of family-orientated activities ranging from craft stalls and celebrity cook-offs to Xtreme sports demos and a 5000 square meter Carnival with a Fun Fair.

Like many of the towns on the North Coast, Ballito offers visitors a plethora of accommodation options including guest houses, bed and breakfasts, hotels and self-catering chalets. Some of these include the Dolphin Rock Guest House & Wellness Centre, Nalson’s View bed and breakfast and Ocean Blue Accommodation which offers self-catering units.

The event aims to raise money for disadvantaged communities in the area and is definitely worth ,checking out especially if you are travelling with your family. Daily tickets can be booked online (note that bookings for the bass fishing competition on Sunday 4th July can be done at www.esaworld.co.za).

To get to Ballito from Durban, follow the main north coast highway (the N2) and take the Ballito/Compensation Exit. If you are flying, the newly built King Shaka International Airport is located near the N2, simply head north up the Dolphin coast until you reach the Ballito/Compensation Exit. For a map and more info, see the official website.

Mr Price Pro Ballito

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If you find yourself gobbling down prawns in Ballito in early July, then why not wonder down to Salmon Bay or Surfers beach to watch top national and international surfers battle it out on the waves for a share of the US$145000 (1.1 million rand) worth of prizes on offer. Formally held in Durban under the name the Gunston 500, the Mr Price Pro Ballito is an annual surfing competition that draws the masses to the Kwadukuza coast. It follows a ‘mobile’ format, which means that the competition can be moved to one of three top-class surfing locations depending on the conditions, but Ballito tends to be favorable surfing spot.

The event runs from the 1st to the 11th of July, with the junior boys and women competing from July 2-4 and the men from July 5-11. Whilst it is strictly not a festival, the event does have a lot to offer tourists. If surfing is not your thing, also on offer is a two-day concert at Salt Rock that is free to the public with acoustic performances on the 9th of July, and a rock night being staged on the night of  July 10. Some of the main acts include Prime Circle, the Flash Republic, the Dirty Skirts, Ard Matthews and the Pixie Bennett band. The Dolphin coast also offers visitors fantastic whale and dolphin watching opportunities and some of the finest golf courses in South Africa. For more information, see the official website.

Pick ‘n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival

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The town of Knysna is renowned for its scenic beauty and magnificent mountainous coastal forests. It is a recognized tourist attraction and forms part of the Garden Route, a scenic tourist path in the Western Cape that stretches from Witsand through George, Wilderness and Plettenberg Bay and culminates in the Tstisikamma Forest. It comes as no surprise then that the town has played host to the Knysna Oyster Festival for the past 27 years.

Traditionally, Leorie Park was the home of this fund-raising charity festival, however, this year the Danish football team has booked the park for the duration of the World Cup. The new venue for the July 2-11 festival is Knysna’s Waterfront Drive (which will be known as the Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival Grounds during the event).

A vivacious atmosphere, tasty food and splendid wines are distinctive features of this well-loved event. Some not to be missed sporting attractions include the Pick n Pay Weekend Argus Rotary Knysna MTB Race and Road Race, the Salomon Featherbed Trail Run, Duesouth Xterra, the Pick n Pay Cape Times Knysna Full or Half Marathon and the Knysna Lagoon Challenge. Visitors that enter all of these events, known as ‘The Big Five’, receive a 10 percent discount and stand a chance to win a prize (normal entries for the marathon and half-marathon have closed, however, if you enter ‘The Big Five’, you can still enter the marathon. Online entries for ‘The Big Five’ close on June 25).

For the running enthusiasts, there is also a 5 kilometer fun run on July 10, a business relay on July 5, a trail run on July 6 and a 5km and 10km run on July 7, which can be entered via the official website.

The festival is ultimately about oysters and these slimy delights will be in abundance, served naked, cooked or garnished at over 30 hotspots during the course of the event. Other oyster-related festival attractions include the Oyster and Wine Mardi Gras ( July 7), the Knysna Oyster Company Shucking Competition (July 6) and the ever-popular Longbarn Oyster Eating Competition (July 8). A full program covering all of the festival’s 100 mid-week events and the weekend attractions is available online. For accommodation options, see the Visit Knynsa website. A variety of daily flight options are offered to George Airport which is only 65 kilometers away from Knysna.

Newtown Cultural Festival

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Newtown is the cultural heart of Gauteng. Rich in history and art, this town is the ideal venue for a cultural festival that aims to showcase what Johannesburg and South Africa has to offer. The Newtown Cultural Festival 2010 aims to be a mélange of music, dance, theatre, literature, film, poetry, photography, science and outdoor performance.

It takes place during the World Cup month and includes performances such as Jo Stromgren Kompani’s ‘A Dance Tribute to the Art of Football’ at the Dance Factory and Brett Bailey’s ‘House of the Holy Afro’ at The Market Theatre. There will also be plenty of African Jazz performed live at Basslines and Kippies and an exhibit at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre called ‘The Science of Soccer’ (for a full program and booking details, see the official festival website).

The Ashanti Hotel is located at 10 Anderson Street and offers stylish self-catering accommodation that is only a few blocks away from Newtown. Mapungubwe Hotel is a four-star establishment situated in Marshall Street a few blocks away from the festival venues. Also in proximity to the festival is the Parktonian and the Devonshire hotels in Braamfontein.

Cool Britannia

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If Cape Town is your city of choice for this year’s World Cup, then make your way to the International Convention Centre on the Eastern Boulevard for a celebration of football and music. The Cool Britannia festival offers football fans and like-minded travellers a safe space in which they can enjoy live games which will be broadcast on three massive television screens or party all night to the sounds of Fatboy Slim, Dizzee Rascal, Galaxy FM’s Steve Sutherland and other top national and international DJs and bands.

 The festival runs from June 11 to July12,  2010 and is a fantastic headquarters for football fans with the Greenpoint Stadium only a walk away. Visitors will also be able to browse the football, music and technology merchandise that will be on offer on the festival grounds.

The organizers of Cool Britannia have notched up nearly a decade of experience in hosting these kinds of events for travelling football fans, having arranged similar festivities for Champions League Finals and European Cups. The festival promises to showcase the talents of a number of top class musical acts as well as offer audiences a visual spectacle through lighting shows. Some of the South African artists include 340ml, Tucan Tucan, Roger Goode and DJ Fresh.

The festival also promises a number of ‘country days’ in which the sights and sounds of a specific nation will be showcased. Already set are a France day on June 11, Argentina on June 12, Germany on June 13, Italy on June 14, Brazil on June 15, South Africa on June 16, Mexico on June 17 and England on June 18.

For more information and a full program of the festival events see the official website. The festival organizers have promised a number of taxis that will be available to transport fans to and from their places of residence. Tickets to watch live games and attend the after-party cost R150 for South African acts and R400 for international shows. They can be booked online.

If you’re planning  a trip to South Africa, don’t forget to check out WhyGo South Africa. And if you can’t make it to the World Cup games, you can follow all the action on the World Cup Blog.

Photos: Greyton Winter Classical Music Festival – Magriet Theron, Wacky Wine Weekend – Shawn Benjamin, Grahamstown National Arts Festival – sartsfest, Ballito Prawn and Jazz Festival -avlxyz, Mr Price Pro Ballito – Sir. Mo, Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival – Permission granted by Jeannine Orzechowski, Newtown Cultural Festival – courtesy of Derek Davey, Cool Britannia – permission granted by Emily Bell

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