There is just something special to small town festivals which you don’t get in the cities and the Patensie Citrus Festival has that something special. This past weekend the third annual Citrus Festival took place in the Gamtoos Vally west of Port Elizabeth. The Gamtoos Valley is very much a farming area and produce both fruit and vegetables with potatoes and oranges being two of the major produce from the valley. In actual fact the valley is often referred to as the food basket of the Eastern Cape. The festival took place and and around one of the storage sheds in the town and gets organised by Gamtoos Tourism to generate funds to market the valley and create awareness for more visitors to come and experience one of the most beautiful areas in this part of the Eastern Cape. Festivities started on the Friday evening already with a dance where well known country music star Lance James performed.
Our first stop when we got to the festival and one of the main reasons we went was the fresh produce stall. Produce so fresh it comes straight from the farms. Plus we paid less than half what we would have paid for the same stuff in the city. Rather than trolleys there were farm workers who loaded your purchase onto wheelbarrows and pushed it to the car for you. Real farm hospitality.
Because the area is one of South Africa’s top export citrus producers, citrus is at the core of the festival. The local Patensie Citrus group had one of the best stalls of the day selling jams, marmalade’s and even a cookbook. Another citrus related highlight was a farm tour on a tractor and trailer with farmer Danie Malan during which visitors were allowed to go in amongst the citrus trees and pick their own naartjies.
Entertainment and exhibits there were more than enough of with Dillon Lerm kicking off the on stage entertainment which went on all afternoon and well into the evening. Outside there were tractor and farming exhibits, an old car and vintage tractor exhibit, a funfair and even a haunted house for the kids to go and scream in. Well scream, laugh and giggle.
Except for the on stage entertainment the stalls at any festival is at the core of things and without good stalls people don’t return to these festivals. And good stalls the Citrus Festival had. The Gamtoos Tourism food stall were churning our pancakes, breakfast rolls and burgers while the roosterkoek stall on the other side of the isle just couldn’t keep up with the demand. Fresh orange juice squeezed and poured immediately was tops. You just don’t get that in the city much. Outside another popular stall was the Pomegranate stall where the sold fresh pomegranate juice, something I’ve never had before.
Oh and cakes. Did I mention the cakes? The local church ladies had a table where they sold the most divine lemon tarts, cup cakes, carrot cakes and quiche. What’s a small town festival without the local tannies’ cakes? And in this case nice “hold in the hand bite size” cakes.
The Citrus Festival may not be as big as the more established Kirkwood Wildlife Festival but I kinda like it that way. I do have a feeling though that in a couple of years this festival is going to be very popular.