After many years of steady decline, the Kouga Municipality and Jeffreys Bay Tourism have decided to cancel the Shell Festival in 2013.
Once a highlight on the Jeffreys Bay tourism calendar, the Shell Festival slowly became a flea market that predominantly sold cheap plastic imports from the East.
The Shell Festival was originally started by Jeffreys Bay Tourism as a method to fund the office and to promote Jeffreys Bay as a tourism destination.
Shell Petrol Station came on board as the original sponsor and the name then stuck with the festival, long after Shell pulled their sponsorship.
In time, it became accepted that the Festival was aptly named as Jeffreys Bay is world renowned as a mecca for shell collectors and even boasts the biggest shell collection in South Africa, the Charlotte Kritzinger Collection.
Indeed, the festival became known as the “Skulpie Fees” in Afrikaans, so engrained did the name become.
The Kouga Municipality had to step in and take over the Shell Festival in the early 2000’s when it became apparent that the Festival was draining funds from the Jeffreys Bay Tourism office, instead of being a cash cow.
However, the Shell Festival began a steady decline until it reached the point that residents felt embarrassed about the Festival as it certainly was not showcasing the town and all it has to offer.
With no sponsor wanting to become involved with the Festival, the Kouga Municipality and JBay Tourism really had little choice but to can the Festival for 2013.
A smaller scale Heritage Festival will be held instead, from 21-24 September that will see stalls being set up along Main Beach as well as beach activities in the form of beach soccer, beach rugby and a sea swim, amongst others.
A unique feature of the Heritage Festival is that stall holders will only be allowed to set up during the day and they have to take down their stalls overnight.
There is a commitment to sort out the problem with Nigerian traders, as many locals felt that the goods they sold cheapened the Festival and that only hand made goods should be of offer.
The general consensus among locals is that of relief that the Shell Festival has died a natural death and that Kouga Municipality’s Director of Tourism, Carleen Arendse is on track with coming up with a new concept for a Jeffreys Bay festival that we can all feel proud of and support.