Spirit on the rocks…Matobo Gin Fest makes a return

09 Jun, 2024 - 00:06 0 Views
Spirit on the rocks…Matobo Gin Fest makes a return

The Sunday News

Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter

DURING the first day of this year’s edition of the Matobo Gin Festival, taking place between 13 and 15 September, campers will be treated to a networking cocktail party at Blue Hills Resort.

Ordinarily, business networking could be classified as an activity that one would not associate with a festival, particularly one powered by an alcoholic spirit.

However, after taking a breather for a year, the Matobo Gin Fest is returning, it seems, with a fresh cocktail of ideas that seek to position it as a leader in tourism and entertainment spheres.

This may be important, as the festival comes back in an entertainment environment vastly different from the one in 2021, the year it was founded.

Since then, Covid-19 has come and gone, changing the face of showbiz. Revellers in the City of Kings have seemingly now acquired a taste for events that are out of the ordinary and it is no longer enough to slap a “hot” artiste from Mzansi on a poster and hope that fun-lovers will come flocking through the turnstiles.

Events that give revellers a well-rounded, wholesome time out have flourished, while those that rely only on the so-called big names have floundered.

It is this energy that the organisers of this year’s festival are also seeking to tap into, expanding what was initially envisioned as a one-night party into a three-day festival.

“Camping is going to enhance the spirit of positioning this event as a celebration of Matobo Hills,” Phineas Chauke, who is in charge of camping and marketing at the fest said, “In addition, this also strengthens the perception of the event as a key driver of tourism to the Matopos. So, with that in mind, on Friday the 13th, we are going to Blue Hills Camp where we will enjoy the various activities on offer.

We are collaborating with them for this year and those who camp with us will be able to enjoy activities like quad biking, archery, mountain biking, and mini-golf.

“On the 14th we are going back to the Matopos where we will have a scenic drive and also visit where Cecil John Rhodes is buried. We will also tour Amagugu Heritage Centre, where we will have our Paint and Sip because we want to see our campers’ creativity come to the fore as they drink their Matobo gin. From Amagugu we will see the Njelele Hill and on the same day, we will also do some rhino tracking because the Matobo Hills harbour the highest number of rhinos on State land in Zimbabwe,” he said.

While for many the last day will be the highlight, for campers, the business networking cocktail, a braai and an intimate djembe session with Emmanuel Nkomo of Djembe Monks on the first day will just be as exciting.

One of the organisers of this year’s extravaganza, Thembalethu Ndlovu said as it coincided with the Sanganai/Hlanganani Tourism Expo, it was an ideal opportunity to connect the festival to the movers and shakers in the sector.

“Things are different this time around. In the past, the festival was held over a single day, now it’s something that takes place over three days. We are introducing camping as well as business networking on the first two days and then the last day is going to follow the old template of the festival.

“This will be on Sanganai weekend so we are trying to work out something with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA). We had a meeting with them and after they gave us a list of requirements, we went back to the drawing board to work out what we needed to do. The deal is not yet final. Right now they are busy pushing gastronomy tourism so since the Matobo Gin Fest is all about pairing the local gin with the local food, I think it aligns with what authorities are also pushing,” he said.

While the festival itself had been open to all and sundry, Ndlovu said they would be only taking 50 campers for the three days, with international visitors also expected to be part of that cohort.

“For the 50 campers, we are hoping that for some slots we will get some people who will be at the Sanganai/Hlanganani Expo. There will be some people coming from other parts of the world and when they do come and see the food and beverages that we have, it will help spread the word about the beauty of Matobo and other places in the region. I encourage everyone to come and take part.

This festival is yours and it will go a long way in showcasing support for the tourism sector in Bulawayo and beyond. Besides, there will be a lot of fun and we will welcome visitors with open arms to the Matobo Hills,” he said.

Speaking during a briefing last week, festival founder Langa Moyo said not only were they expecting visitors from outside the country, but some gin makers from abroad would be titillating the taste buds of imbibers over the three days of the festival.

“In terms of the gins that we will be showcasing this year, we have got some very exciting brands that have come on board. We have got Malawi Gin, which is going to be a part of the event and we have a craft gin from the UK which is also going to take part. We have Nyanga Craft, which is based here in Zimbabwe and they will also be part of this year’s festival. We have two more gins from South Africa that we are talking to and in the next two weeks or so we should be able to announce their participation,” he said.

Moyo said inviting different gin-makers from around the world lived true to the festival’s stated goal of offering a unique experience to its attendees.

“People need to know about the event and activities that will be involved in the event in time. Also, people are always in search of something unique and different, that is why we have been providing gins from different countries,” he said.

As the Motobo Gin Fest enters a new phase, Moyo reminisced on how an idea sparked by a visit to another event in Victoria Falls now stood poised to inject new life into the tourism sector in the Matabeleland region.

“I visited Victoria Falls for an event we were doing around 2021 and came across some guys who were doing an event called the Gin Connection on cruise boats. It was quite inspiring and I thought we should also have our event primarily to market our gin. We then went around Matobo looking for venues and I fell in love with Sandy Spruit Dam,” he said.

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