40th Knysna Oyster Festival hailed a success

The festival, a highlight of the South African event calendar, once again showcased the best of Knysna’s culinary delights, hospitality, and natural beauty, leaving visitors and locals alike with unforgettable memories.

The 2023 Knysna Oyster Festival, held from 30 June 30 to 9 July, has concluded on a high note, celebrating a remarkable success that exceeded all expectations.

“I’m very excited to report that this year’s festival had a high attendance, with visitors flocking to Knysna, reinforcing its reputation as one of Africa’s premier festivals,” says Lungiswa Goya, chairperson of the Knysna Oyster Festival marketing committee.

With its theme ‘Have a whale of a time’, the 2023 edition of the Knysna Oyster Festival offered an array of sporting and lifestyle events, and gastronomic experiences, catering to diverse interests. Outdoor enthusiasts had the opportunity to participate in numerous adventure sports, including trail running, mountain biking, and water sports. The scenic surroundings of Knysna provided a breathtaking backdrop for these adrenaline-fueled events, attracting both seasoned athletes and novices looking to challenge themselves.

The cultural heritage of Knysna was celebrated through live music performances, art walks and exhibitions, and craft markets. Says Goya: “The vibrant atmosphere infused the town with a sense of unity and pride, as locals and visitors mingled and embraced the rich diversity of Knysna’s community.

“We are immensely grateful to all the participants, sponsors, and volunteers who contributed to making this festival a resounding success.

“The success of the Knysna Oyster Festival is a testament to the unwavering commitment of the local community, as well as the enduring allure of the region and the festival continues to play a vital role in boosting tourism and economic growth in Knysna.”

The biggest sporting event of the festival, the popular Knysna Forest Marathon, was fully subscribed with nearly 6 000 runners participating in this bucket list trail run.

Andrew Finn, director of the Knysna Cycle Tour confirmed that this year’s tour was bigger and better than last year’s. “Numbers were up 50% on last year with about 800 more entries. The new Knysna Toyota Fun Enduro was a great success, and we will definitely do it again next year. We are also planning on bringing back the road race for 2024.”

Two community events made possible by sponsorship from Standard Bank, the Oyster Festival Soccer and Netball Tournaments saw a record number of participants. These events, as well as the popular Chess Tournament were also supported by the Department of Culture, Arts and Sports (DCAS).

The Amazing Race was another big success, according to organiser Peter Szeili who also coordinated the KnysnaX Trail series. Szeili confirmed that the Castle Lite Beer Tent on the Festival Hub was extremely popular with thousands of people visiting the venue over the 10 days of the festival.

“The Saturday rugby match between South Africa and Australia on the big screen was incredible with around 600 people inside the tent, partying until closure,” he said.

The festival’s major lifestyle event, the Knysna Wine Festival was sold out with 1 200 people attending the event over the two days to sample over 200 local and international wines from 40 exhibitors. Organiser Belinda Hobson said that she was ecstatic with how the event played out and that it raised R4,000 for Sedgefield Animal Matters (SAM). “The Knysna Wine Festival has evolved over the years in much the same way that fine wine does – it just gets better with age,” she enthused.

Oysters were hero of the event with nine Savanna Oyster Hotspots and other local eateries serving up these delicious molluscs in a variety of innovative ways daily. Emporium Concepts, owner of four waterfront restaurants sold nearly 23 000 oysters in 10 days.

Local blogger Rose Bilbrough, who was on the ground for the 10 days of the festival to capture content for the Oyster Festival social media platforms, said that the second half of the festival was particularly busy. “It was just wonderful to see how many people were in Knysna. And despite the fact that the weather was not great, all the running events were incredibly well supported – from the Pezula Sunset Wine Run and the Simola Twilight Forest Trail Run to the Houtkapper Trail Run, people turned out in their hundreds to participate.”

A successful social media campaign, #KnysnaInMyShoes which ran for the duration of the festival was won by Gemma Gelling from Cape Town. She won R15,000 of prizes sponsored by local businesses, accommodation establishments and restaurants and for her picture taken at The Heads with a catamaran in the background.

Plans are already underway for the 2024 edition, which promises to be even more spectacular, with new surprises and delights for all attendees.

About the Knysna Oyster Festival: The Knysna Oyster Festival is an annual celebration of food, culture, and adventure held in Knysna, South Africa. It showcases oysters, local cuisine, outdoor activities, and artistic talent. The festival attracts a diverse audience and contributes significantly to the tourism and economic development of the area.