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Napier's Art Deco Week

NEW ZEALAND | Sunday, 23 February 2020 | Views [43]

Art Deco Week, Napier

Art Deco Week, Napier

SOMETIMES WE GET LUCKY IN OUR TRAVELS.  Fortune smiled on us twice this weekend.  Kiwis Ron and Rita — more about them later — had invited us to stay in their lovely Napier home.  Napier, you may remember, was razed by a devastating earthquake back in 1931.  Art Deco was all the rage when the town was rebuilt and today its buildings are the envy of South Beach in Miami.  And, lucky us, this was Napier’s Art Deco Week, a celebration of nostalgia fitting for F. Scott and Zelda, complete with fancy dress, classic cars, dancing in the street and even an air show.

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         Gracious Hosts, Ron and Rita

We met Ron and Rita fifteen years ago.  We were waiting in our van for the Wellington-Picton Bluebridge Ferry to the South Island when they pulled in behind us in their humungous (or so it seemed at the time) motorhome.  Ron thought Connie looked Scandinavian and asked if we would like to join them for tea while we were waiting.  When informed we were Americans, they surprisingly didn’t rescind the offer.  We ran into them at a campground later in the trip but hadn’t seen them in person since.  Somehow Christmas cards and the occasional email kept the relationship going and here we were.

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             Napier, Art Deco 24/7

I can’t begin to guess how many Art Deco Weeks they have attended but they were gracious enough to chaperone us into town to share the experience.  Parking was all but non-existent and we had to park on the foreshore for the Air Show, along with hundreds of other families.  As it turns out this was the perfect venue to watch the planes swoop and zoom and loop-de-loop through the skies.  Afterward, Ron somehow scored a parking spot in town and we set off to join the celebration.

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                 Air Show at Art Deco Week

We can’t figure how a small country like New Zealand can have so many classic automobiles.  Fords, Chevies, Plymouths and Caddies, of course.  Pierce Arrows, Packards, LaSalles and a hand-full of vintage Rolls for the Swells.  And dozens of others with a high “drool factor” that I couldn’t identify.  And they all seemed to have been driven to town.

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   Art Deco and Vintage Rides

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                             Art Deco and Vintage Rides

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                                                   Rolls Royces all in a Row

The elite of Napier — or those who pretend for a week — were dressed for the occasion; vests, braces, bow ties and hats for the men and heels, flapper dresses, boas and feathers for their ladies.  Even the kids got involved.  And when Connie and I returned during a lull on Saturday, the mall was covered in feathers as if a flock of ostrich molted overnight.

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       Class shows

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                                     23 Skidoo

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                                                         Feathers

While we were perusing the cars we came upon one that, to put it charitably, wasn’t ready for Prime Time.  It was a 1936 Chevy with rust showing through the dull green paint.  Ron used to have one just like it.  In fact, a close look at the registration tag on the windscreen showed it was the exact car he owned!  He hadn’t seen it since 1983 — what are the odds?

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              Ron, His Ride and His Memories

The Art Deco movement around Napier didn't stop in the 30s.  Even McDonalds has gotten on the bandwagon, both outside and inside.  Ronald, however, has resisted the urge to dress up.

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