Fly me (in a heli) to my matric farewell

2013-09-29 10:00

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First Matric Dance Expo being planned for next year.

Matric-farewell fever is exploding around the country in a bright display of feathers, hip-hugging sequins, limousines and even VIP helicopter rides.

In fact, so lucrative is the matric-farewell industry that Lusanda Omelo of Style Experience in Randburg plans to host the country’s first SA Matric Dance Expo at the Sandton Convention Centre next September.

Omelo told City Press that matric-farewell splurges are not limited to affluent people.

“You will get girls from lower-income backgrounds who have single mothers who are nurses, for example, spending up to R5?000 on a dress and R3?000 on hair extensions,” said Omelo.

“For many it’s an aspirational thing. It’s a huge celebration for people who are so proud to reach matric.”

Style Experience specialises in matric-ball itineraries, with clients from as far afield as Limpopo.

Omelo said fashion trends at this year’s matric balls included shimmering sequins and feathers.

Flared tutu gowns were making a comeback too. She added that trendy girls were flocking to five-star hotels like the Hilton in Sandton for pre-matric-bash pamper sessions.

“Especially for the girls, matric dances are all glitz and glam,” she said.

“Families can easily spend between R10?000 and R20?000 for the preparation. It’s almost like a second wedding. This excludes photo shoots and transport, which varies from limousines to, at times, helicopter rides.”

Kyle Olckers of Capital Air Helicopter Charters, based at Rand Airport outside Johannesburg, said they had ferried “countless” couples to dances and had six enquiries about bookings just this week.

Their most popular matric-farewell ride is a four-blade Bell 407 utility helicopter at R11?964 an hour – which has transported U2 crooner Bono and German boy band Bad Boys Blue in the past.

“Of course, some venues have problems with helicopters landing there, so we have to negotiate logistics. But we have people specialising in that so we usually get around it,” he said.

On Friday afternoon, a couple from Monument High School in Krugersdorp was dropped by helicopter at Usambara in Mulderdrift for their matric dance.

Melissa Scheepers of Usambara said they created a special helicopter landing space in the venue’s parking lot.

“We do it often here. It’s quite safe, you know,” she said.

Meanwhile, Erica Pienaar and her staff at the Princess Project in Welgemoed near Cape Town are working around the clock, dressing matric belles in dazzling donated ball gowns.

The project has a wardrobe of 350 dresses and loads of accessories, which are returned and cleaned after each event.

The Princess Project has provided frocks to teenagers from the Athlone School for the Blind for the past seven years.

“Even though most of these girls can hardly see anything, they still want to look and feel beautiful.

“There are also several orphanages that bring girls to me for help with dresses, shoes and other accessories,” said Pienaar.

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