NZ second longest running Community Festival

The Kowhai Festival is a community festival, that takes place every October in and around Warkworth. It’s organised by a dedicated group of volunteers, who are maintaining a tradition since 1970, celebrating all the things that make Rodney such a great place to live, work and play – gorgeous scenery, delicious food and wine, talented artists and musicians, diverse culture, fantastic recreational opportunities and, above all, a welcoming and supportive community spirit.


Date set for Huge Day Out 2017

11 February 2017

The Kowhai Festival Committee has decided to hold the Huge Day Out on Saturday, 28 October 2017. “We are always restricted by the tide times and so it was the best solution to have it moved to the end of October”, says Murray Chapman, Chairman of the committee. It’s the first time, the main event of the festival is hold after Labour Weekend. Dates for the surrounding events as well as the festival theme will be announced in due course.

47th Kowhai Festival ‘best theme ever’

22 November 2016

With an awful September and early October the weather forecasts were looking grim for the Huge Day Out, but as ‘we all are well behaved’ as committee member Shona Pickup reasons, the sun came out and it ended to be a perfect day. With a record number of stalls and a good turnout – about 18000 people joined the second longest running community festival in New Zealand – the main event was a great success. With two stages at either end of the food alley along the wharf and the Garden Bar the committee tried a new set-up, which turned out to be very successful. But the most applause went to the theme ‘Pirates of the Mahurangi’, which shop owners as well as hundreds of kids and adults embraced. Unfortunately spaces on the ‘Jane Gifford’ had to be limited for a pirate cruise and assault on Warkworth at lunchtime. There are rumours, that the pirate theme inspired the new One Warkworth Business Association to create a new slogan for the town.

Events around the festival proved to be as popular as ever, with the Great Debate (sponsored by Mike Pero Real estate) attended by a record crowd and the outdoor movie night (sponsored by Barfoot & Thompson). The sold out Ukulele Festival was organised for the first time and there are definitely plans to bring it back next year. Unfortunately the Raft Race had to be cancelled due to the state of the river.

Barfoot & Thompson supports Movie Night

3 June 2016

The organisers of the Kowhai Festival are proud to announce the partnership with Barfoot & Thompson Warkworth to support the annual movie night (Saturday, 15 October 2016). The popular community event has been part of the Kowhai Festival since 2009 and will be held again this year on the lower field of Shoesmith Domain.

Saull Hinton from Barfoot & Thompson sees the involvement of the local real estate agency as part of their ongoing support for community events in the region.

“It’s awesome to have Barfoot & Thompson on board to support this great community event, which is also supported by the Local Board”, said Urs Bauer, organiser of the outdoor movie night and member of the festival committee. “We’ll have our eighth screening this year and although I can’t announce the movie yet, we’re pretty much set on a title which will be hugely popular!” The setup includes an 18m wide inflatable screen, which is the biggest outdoor screen in the country, and a proper cinema projector to offer top quality screenings.

For the first two years, the event was held on Baxter Street where the then hugely popular ABBA movie ‘Mama Mia’ attracted a large crowd. It then moved to Mahurangi College and later to Shoesmith Domain, where the lower field offers a perfect location with its sheltered area and grassy bank as well as the existing infrastructure provided by Auckland Council.

Festival theme 2016: Pirates of the Mahurangi

1 June 2016

The Kowhai Festival committee is excited to announce the theme for the Huge Day Out, which is held on Saturday 8 October. It’s ‘Pirates of the Mahurangi’. They already took the popular ‘Pirates’ Band under contract and will theme up several activities. An important part of that theme will also be the engagement of the shop owners in the Warkworth township, who traditionally dress their windows according to the theme. “We’re convinced, that this theme will be hugely popular and we expect kids to be dressed up and come along in hordes to celebrate our annual community festival” says chairman Murray Chapman. “You can imagine a few Kayakers dressed up at the Canoe Showdown as well.”

Stallholders can apply for their site online on www.kowhaifestival.nz and more information about the events surrounding the Festival as well as the ‘Huge Day Out’ will be published regularly.

Mike Pero Real Estate supporting Great Debate

29 April 2016

Mike Pero Real Estate Warkworth are supporting The Warkworth Great Debate and have announced that they will become the lead sponsor of what has become one of the most popular events of the Kowhai Festival over the last five years .

The Great Debate which is organised and run by Warkworth Toastmasters to raise money for Warkworth Wellsford Hospice entertained 200 people last year with two hilarious debates at Ascension Wine Estate. The debate which is in its 6th year has grown from 75 guests to 200 and has raised over $15,000 over that time for Hospice.

Murray Chapman from Warkworth Toastmasters believes that with the backing of a community minded company such as Mike Pero Real Estate even more money can be raised to assist the local Hospice, “we look forward to building the debate into an even bigger and more successful night. Andrew and Angela from Mike Pero bring a lot of new ideas and energy into what is already a great event and we are excited to work with them”.

Hospice is an organisation that Angela and Andrew frequently support; “At some stage in our lives all of us will probably be touched by the wonderful work that they do, certainly they were there for us when we needed them, so this is a great way to give back. When our Warkworth agent Jeff Montrose asked on behalf of Murray if we would be involved, we agreed without a second thought; the bonus is that we get to enjoy a really good night out with lots of laughter, it couldn’t be better.”






  • Murray Chapman (Chair)
  • Ray Harrison (Finance/Sponsorship)
  • Dianne Hopgood (Secretary)
  • Warwick Massey (Consents)
  • Phil Tyler (Music/Merchandise/Baxter St Stage)
  • Frances and Andrew Leonard (Stalls)
  • Angela Thomas (Promotion)
  • Urs Bauer (Website/Social Media/Movie Night)
  • Leslie Ingham (Volunteers)
  • Shona Pickup (Wharf Stage)
  • Cynthia and Justin Oliver (Garden Bar)
  • Gary Martin (Dog Show)
  • Jim Sonerson (Canoe Showdown Link)
  • Peter Bishop (Traffic)
  • David Parker (Walk & Cruise)


By Ken Fearnley

(published as letter to the editor in Mahurangi Matters)

The festival was really the brainchild of Jack Keys; Jack was a very modest man and would never have claimed to be the inventor.

Jack was the driving force, the energy and the creator of the festival. Back in 1970 almost anything done around Warkworth was done by the three main service clubs: Lions, Rotary and Jaycee. Jaycee’s was the most active of the three service clubs, its very nature – young men aged between 18 years and 40 years – ensured the energy required for its many projects. Jack came to me, a member of Jaycee in mid 1970, with the Kowhai Festival idea. He knew that if Jaycee would support the idea, then the other clubs would follow suit.

Jaycee’s got behind the festival with great enthusiasm. A Kowhai Festival committee was formed, its members made up of the three service clubs. I was voted chairman and Jack, representing Rotary, was secretary. It was decided to have a week of fun. We had no money, but didn’t see that as a problem as each event would be self funded or provided by its promoter. My favourite event was the Old Time Music Hall, each of the artists came from the local community, the Town Hall was packed out, beer served and there was much laughter to accompany it. One act has stuck in my memory. The artist was Gordon Cummings, the local Traffic Officer.

Gordon strode up to the microphone and began to sing. The hall went silent as each person there was enthralled by his wonderful singing voice. When he finished the applause nearly brought the roof down. The festival’s beginning took many hours of dedicated activity from those on the committee and the many clubs, organisations and individuals involved. It is wonderful to see the result of those who dedicated so much time and effort to get it off the ground, develop into something that gives so many a great deal of pleasure.

Huge Day Out Programme 2015
Huge Day Out Programme 2016


Click on the below photo collage to get to the Kowhai Festival gallery on our Facebook page:

Click here to see the image gallery