Thursday, 7 December 2017

Rotorua Celebrations c1903-1940

Rotorua Carnival Week 

The inaugural Carnival Week - Christmas Eve to New Year's Eve was 1903

The first ever carnival was held from 24th February of 1903 for 1 week.  Visitors from Auckland and all the surrounding districts were in Rotorua for the commencement of the 1st Annual Rotorua Carnival... Read about the opening of the carnival, how many attended the event and the parades which included canoes. The highlights of the carnival were the Maori events which included a war canoe race.
Source: "Papers Past" Auckland Star, 24 February 1903 pg. 5

February 1907 – Don Stafford recorded the following letter from the Rotorua Carnival Committee of 1907 in his "Events folder 1870-1929".
The Parade entrants in this order:
The Marshall on horseback 
Mounted Police
The Darktown Band
Sir J.G. Ellis (The Official)
Maori best dressed teams
- in between each team a mounted maori on a painted horse
Mud Card & Mud Man
Rotorua Volunteer Fire Brigade
Decorated Vehicles
Ambulance Cart, Horse and Barrels
Salvage Corp. 2 men and cart.
Poster and Advertising costumes
Poi Dancers 
Rotorua Brass Band
School Cadets
Vehicle with Miss Lundon's Maypole Dancers
The Bullock
Maori War Party led by a painted horse
The Oddfellows
Children in gala costume
Decorated Prams
Decorated Bicycles 
Motor Cars
Corbett's Exhibition on a cart
Clowns and Funny Men scattered right through.
The Committee consisted of the following: D. Gardner, Lawrence Birks, F.A. Bennett, R.B.T. Miller, W.E. Bennett, Charles Clarke, C.W. Grove, Thornton Walker, J.W. McLean and A.F. Ellis.

 In 1908 the Carnival was expanded due to its popularity with locals and tourists. It was held 19th Feb 1908-18th March 1908 with many events.

Beyond this date there is no mention of the Carnival again until 1928-29 when it was a week-long event held 24th December to 1st January. Culminating with a New Year’s Eve Dance at the Majestic Ball Room, the band was Epi Shalfoon and his Melody Boys.  

The organisers from this time on were members of the Rotorua Borough Council. Advancement Committee.

In 1930 Rotorua opened its ‘Boxing Day carnival programme preceded by 22 earthquakes said to be ‘’more noise than shake’’ Papers Past, Northern Advocate, 27th December 1930 pg. 7

Carnival Week c.1933
From : Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19330111-43-1
In 1931 a Rodeo was held at Cochrane Park near the Ohau Channel. An advert in the New Zealand Herald listed the following attractions: “Steer Riding, Speed Boat races, Aquaplaning, Maori Entertainments and Water Sports”

In 1932 there was a “King Carnival” who opened the Carnival Week at the Town Square, which was illuminated by coloured lights. There followed a welcome of King Carnival and his suite by Mayor Mr T. Jackson.


By 1934 it was decided that a full time staff member would be required to run the event and Mr W. Lints of Wanganui was appointed, he subsequently resigned in 1935. This did not deter Council from organising the next one via the town’s information centre staff.

In 1941 the carnival was cancelled due to the circumstances (WW2) & in 1943 when there was a fuel shortage (again due to WW2). 

In the Auckland Star, 3 January 1942, p.3 it was reported that “The weather joined forces with wartime restrictions to dampen the carnival spirit” and “for years the number of visitors to the New Year Carnival had been estimated at 15,000. Many old residents were of the opinion that there were fewer visitors than on any occasion since the first carnival was held about 18 years ago”

With thanks to the Don Stafford Collection and Papers Past for the information above.



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