From the beginning of November onwards, Geraldine is a riot of colour as the gardens of town burst with fresh spring colour.
November also heralds the first of the season’s festivals; the Geraldine Summer Fete, set in the lush grounds of historic Stover Farm, just outside Geraldine. The one-day event attracts stall holders and devotees from around the country and is renowned for its style.
The following week, the Geraldine Festival, held over 4 days, is more of a family affair with many choosing to escape the confines of Christchurch on Show Weekend, to check out art on display, open gardens, market days and more.
This year the festival theme was Geraldine goes Batty, to promote the endangered Long Tailed Bat (Peka Peka) colony that makes its home in and around the District. Geraldine is unique as one of the few populated areas where these tiny and very cute mammals roost and can be seen flitting like butterflies at dusk.
The Mt Peel Lily Day, which takes place every second year, wowed the crowds this year with majestic blooms, live opera singing on the lawn and even a troop of Morris dancers for good measure!
The annual Go Geraldine Christmas Parade was bigger than ever, despite very threatening bouts of thunder and lightning which forced a slightly earlier start to the parade.
The crowds were not disappointed however, floats spanned the full stretch of the town’s main street and took nearly an hour to roll past the cheerful crowds, ensuring the parade lived up to its reputation as the best in the region.
Next day was a different story as the thunder, lightning and rain finally abated to reveal a very swollen Rangitata River. Bad weather on both sides of the main divide had seen West Coast roads already closed and by lunchtime the east coast was also isolated, as both the State Highway 1 and upper Rangitata bridges were closed for safety.
People were stranded on both sides of the river and Geraldine soon became a frontier outpost as travellers arrived in hope of a route north and to glean any news of a re-opening.
As the day wore on and it became clear that the bridges would not open that day (or indeed the next) Geraldine opened its heart, and homes, to those displaced by the floods and the travellers unexpectedly stuck. Many stories of kindness have come to light since then which goes to show that community spirit is alive and well in small town New Zealand.
When the bridges re-opened 2 days later, normal service resumed in the town and the festive season once again became the centre of attention as the town is gears up for its annual twilight shopping night; a wonderful collaboration of local retailers and the Farmers Market, to offer shoppers the chance for last minute purchasing, completed in a relaxed festive atmosphere, without the stress and bustle, but with plenty of entertainment and surprises.
Finally, as the arrival of the big man himself draws near, Stonebridge of Geraldine offers the perfect way to unwind and enjoy Christmas Eve, with an outdoor celebration in stunning grounds – think wood fired pizzas, cheese platters, cocktails, music, fun for the kids and more.
And when the festive season is done, Geraldine will soon swell to welcome summer visitors and hot blue sky summer days, perfect for swimming at the waterfalls and long cool walks in the native bush.
Geraldine, summer must be there again, I know … Jordon Luck