What’s a kunstefees without Klippies ‘n Coke?

No fewer than 210 cases of Klipdrift were sold at this year’s Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK). And this was only at the Klipdrift tent and did not account for truckloads of Klippies that made their way to Oudtshoorn in cooler bags and methods of mass transportation.

There is no denying that the arts festival is one of the country’s biggest bashes and kuiers. The huge festival which many speculate draws as many as 200 000 people each year, is one of the highlights on South Africa’s cultural calendar and a darling of Afrikaans-lovers.

The festival’s turnover hovers around R20-million. Sponsors alone brought in R9-million. The total economic impact of the festival on its host town amounts to R57,3-million.

About 540 stalls were erected this year. The cheapest costs R1 400 for the duration of the festival, but pound-seat takers paid a bit more than the plebs on the open veld. Some stalls were as innovative and creative as the artistic productions people flock to see. They sold anything from beads, lamps and food, to clothes.

But “Made in China” junk is not really what the festival is about. This year Die Zinkhuisie won the prize for the best “covered” stall, while the Mieliekoning and Alet Erasmus’s Piet’s en Wrêps won the prize for best food stall.

Rhodé Snyman, corporate manager of the festival, said the Karoo heat ensured that ice cream stalls drew the most patrons — that is those who hadn’t refreshed themselves with Klippies and Coke.

“Food stalls in general are more popular than the arts stalls,” she said. Restaurants made a killing. One such establishment, PieterCelia, served two tons of food on a dish-and-weigh base. Many restaurants feature a special menu for KKNK, and their prices are a tad higher than an Oudthoorner might expect at any other time of year.

SA Breweries said they sold 230 000 drinks during the festival.

Most people who visit the festival are Afrikaans, aged between 29 and 50 and travel in groups of about four, a study on the festival revealed. The people travelling together are not necessarily family, but often friends in town for a good time. Most visitors come from the Western Cape, although more and more Gautengers are also pitching up.

The festival’s research also shows that most of the money spent at the event goes on accommodation, then on food and finally on shows. The town has one hotel, nine guesthouses, 11 boarding houses, eight camping sites, and 257 private homes that rent out rooms during the festival. The most expensive room is R909, while a camping site will give you a cheap sleep at R80 per site. Most people prefer to camp, the study said, and they stay for about five days.

Of the almost 200 000 people that visit the festival, 70% attend free shows. Patrons average about six shows at the festival. But the study showed that people spent less money last year than the years before. Visitors spent R2 994,17 per person last year, as opposed to R3 055 in 2005.

But overall, business and restaurants soak up the money. If they suffer losses these are normally attributed to theft. Impact studies show that the festival created 17% more permanent jobs than last year.

The main attraction of the festival is obviously the array of shows on offer. There were more or less 1 000 artists on the formally approved programme of the festival, but dozens more “fringe” artists were present, walking about and promoting their talents. The festival boasted 220 productions and 970 shows in total.

Comedy was again king this year. The most lucrative shows, such as Pottie Potgieter, Sussie Survivor, Die Vrou Wat Haar Man Gekook Het (The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband) and Lawwe Geluide all had a chuckle to offer. Critics enjoyed shows such as Misa Criolla, Valley Song and Die Storm. But the most popular “show” was Klippies and Coke — statistics never lie.

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