Impact of Festivals

Modified: 10th Nov 2017
Wordcount: 1625 words

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Robyn Ormond


South Africans love festivals, it is a chance to ‘let loose’ and enjoy a time of fun, family and by the end, usually no funds. Festivals can be described in many ways, namely “events of limited duration developed primarily to enhance the awareness, appeal and profitability of a tourist destination” (Ritchie, 1984: 2). Festivals have become a vital component of tourism in small towns (Visser, 2005). The importance of annual festivals in two South African towns, being Sedgefield (the Sedgefield Slow-Festival) and Knysna ( Knysna Oyster Festival) as well as the economic importance of these festivals will be explored to show how festivals can prevent the decline of these iconic towns. Decline def

The Importance of Festivals

Festivals are more than just a way of making money, there is a deeper impact of festivals upon the communities who host them, these festivals can then rather be referred to as “a public, themed celebration” (Jackson et al, 2005). Festivals which occur in smaller town like the two that will be analysed normally have a strong sense of community and by holding a festival, ideals such as leadership and accountability of the locals are promoted, members of the community are encouraged to get involved and to take responsibility with regards to the planning and running of the festival (Visser, 2005). This act of holding a festival strengthens the community and allows for bonds of friendship to form between the town members as community goals are achieved through the management of the festival (Saayman A, & Saayman, M, 2006).

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The festival also allows for the natural beauty of the towns to be appreciated and act as a platform for conservation and environmental protection (especially in Sedgefield and Knysna, both of which occur along South Africa’s prestigious Garden Route) (Visser, 2005). Festivals not only create links within the community but strengthens ties with that of the world around them (people from much larger cities- Cape Town and Johannesburg are willing to travel to come and participate in the festivals held in Knysna and Sedgefield.) (Saayman A, & Saayman, M, 2006). The strong community bond a festival creates can help prevent the town from going into decline by becoming an attractive place to live and especially to retire to.

The Economic Importance of Festivals:

Not only are festivals important for growing a town’s identity but these celebrations are known to bring a healthy influx of money into the town. Festivals can boost a towns economy by either extending the current seasonal income (money made during peak tourism times in the town- usually correlating with holidays) or by creating an entirely new tourism season (Visser, 2005). The economic impact of a festival on a small town is simple; people come from outside the town and by participating in the festival, spend money which goes directly towards the local economy of the town (Saayman A, & Saayman, M, 2006).

Tourism is the driving force behind a festival and the more a town can offer in terms of tourism, the more attractive the festival will be. Festivals are a way of a town advertising itself to the outside world in the hopes of attracting people willing to settle there or foreign investors to take an interest in the town (Saayman A, & Saayman, M, 2006). The money generated from a festival is used in a small town to help ensure sustainability of the town and to help the town regenerate (if it had previously gone through a period of decline) (Saayman A, & Saayman, M, 2006). A tourist spending money in the town during a festival has an impact on a variety of sectors due to the interlinked nature of the tourism industry (a tourist will need to purchase food and drink during the festival, have access to accommodation as well as pay to participate in the events of the festival, this will benefit a large number of businesses in the town) (Saayman A, & Saayman, M, 2006). For the two festivals being explored, a large portion of the proceeding is donated to charity, as the community of Sedgefield and Knysna are more people-orientated and less money-driven.

The Sedgefield Slow Festival:

The Sedgefield slow festival is a celebration of life in a small town – only 7.85 km² in size with a population of 8286 (Firth, 2011) – along the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The town advertises itself as South Africa’s self-proclaimed “Slow Town” (as nothing will happen at a speed faster than a tortoise’s walk- the icon of Sedgefield). The local residents volunteer to be part of a committee who are dedicated to creating a festival which promotes “Wholesome goodness, Family, Friends, Fun, the Outdoors and Great food” (Dixon, 2014). The festival is young in comparison to other South African festivals with its birth in 2010. The objective of the festival is to show off the natural beauty of the area in a way that will get the entire town involved while creating local economic opportunities at the same time (Dixon, 2014). The town hosts several events during the festival including the infamous “Anything-That-Floats Race” (a water race where participants must build crafts constructed entirely out of recycled materials). Other events include a Beer-Pong competition held at one of the local bars as well as the Town Hall Arts Exhibition. In total there are about twenty five events held over the three days surrounding the Easter weekend (18-20 April in 2014) (Dixon, 2014). In 2013 the proceeds from a variety of events, market sales (in the local farmers’ and craft market) and donations, the Slow-festival was able to support four different charities (Sedgefield Hospice, Sedge Mobile Meals, KAWS and Masithandane) with R12000 over the three day festival (Dixon, 2014).

The Knysna Oyster Festival:

Only 25km away from Sedgefield is the town of Knysna. Every year around the first week of July the Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival is held over a ten day period (Knysna Oyster Festival, 2014). This festival is much older than the Sedgefield Slow-Festival with its debut in 1983. The purpose of the festival was originally to bring people to the area during the off-peak winter period; subsequently the festival has experienced a large amount of success and has grown significantly since its origin (Knysna Oyster Festival, 2014).

The festival places a great emphasis on supporting charities, and due to the large nature of the festival, a sizeable amount of money can be donated. In 2013 the festival was able to generate R1 million which would benefit the community and have a significant impact on the local charities (Knysna Oyster Festival, 2014). Before an event can be registered as an official event of the Oyster Festival it must first state which charity or non-governmental organisation it will be supporting with a portion of its proceeds (Knysna Oyster Festival, 2014).

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Out of the many events held over the ten days, the three most iconic are the Momentum Weekend Argus Rotary Knysna Cycle Tour (which is one of the largest road and mountain bike races in South Africa), the Momentum Cape Times Knysna Forest Marathon and Half Marathon and of course the oysters which are eaten over the duration of the festival (which can reach up to 20000 oysters consumed) (Knysna Oyster Festival, 2014).


Festivals in small towns (especially in South Africa) are events in which the entire community can be involved in the planning, managing and running of the festival. These festivals are able to boost the local economy and generate a flow of capital in times which would otherwise be regarded as off-peak quiet periods characterised by little tourism and lower income for the community members. These festivals such as the Sedgefield Slow-Festival and the Knysna Oyster Festival create an identity for the town whilst forming community bonds between the residents. The large charity component of both the Sedgefield Slow-Festival and the Knysna Oyster Festival allows for all in the community to benefit from the proceeds. Overall festivals are a time to celebrate life, family, food and of course to have some fun.

Reference List:

Dixon, A. (2014). Sedgefield’s Slow Festival. Available from:

Firth,A. (2011). Sedgefield Main Place 180007 from Census 2011. Available from:

Knysna Oyster Festival. (2014). Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival. Available from:

Jackson, J., Houghton, M., Russel, R., Triandos,P. (2005). Innovations in Measuring

Economic Impacts of Regional Festivals: A Do-It-Yourself Kit. Journal of Travel Research, 43:360-367. DOI: 10.1177/0047287505274649

Ritchie, J.R.(1984) Assessing the impact of hallmark events: conceptual and research issues. Journal of Travel Research, 23(1), 2-11.

Saayman, A., Saayman, M. (2006). Does the location of arts festivals matter for the economic impact? Papers in Regional Science, 85

Visser, G. (2005). Let’s Be Festive: Exploratory Notes on Festival Tourism in South Africa. Urban Forum, 16:2-3.


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