I’ll get to the point straight away: IT’S A RIP!
The street markets start about 9am and have the usual NZ market mix of craft and foods. I bought a rather nice salami for $25. I also bought a small badge with a picture of John Key holding Picton the kitten. The vendor then tried to recruit me in to his protest campaign. Meanwhile an ex-gang leader had convinced my uncle to buy his book. You need to keep your wits about you! There aren’t that many stalls and you can walk around in about 20 min.
The actual festival is up at the school. You pay $40 just for entry, which is more than any other food festival in NZ. Once you are in there are NO samples and you have to pay for all your food and drinks, so it works out at at least $60 per person, and more like $80 if you want to try more than 3 or 4 things. The only free things are pukeko and trout, because they cannot be sold.
Now if you are willing to pay that kind of money you can try many things. They have huhu grubs, scallops, mountain oysters, offal, crickets, waffles, whitebait, snails, bratwurst, ostrich, kangaroo, crocodile, fudge, vegan meat, tuna, crepes, churros, venison, pukeko, trout, paradise duck, and tahr. (If some of those don’t look very wild it is because it’s in Hokitika and churros are new and exotic). Do not eat anything before you go. I found that the serving sizes were too large and I was full after about 5, since they give you a fairly large helping. It would be better to have smaller and cheaper servings ($1-2 skewers or bites). A whole whitebait fritter is too large when you also want to have an ostrich sandwich, bratwurst and some crocodile within 20 min.
The main draw is the live huhu grub eating. Several stands have them but only one had people cutting them out of the wood.
I did not try any. Apparently they don’t taste of anything much but do have hairs. The most popular stands were the ones selling less adventurous food, and the Lions Foundation stall selling brains, testicles, etc, was not doing very well.
There is a lot of alcohol available (after 11am) and if sitting in a tent drinking beer is your thing you may think the festival is more enjoyable than I did. I was looking for unhomogenised milk and bread made with wild yeast but it seems I was alone. This is the Coast, after all. Someone had a wedding at the festival complete with electric guitar processional music.