First indications are that the number of visitors to the 16th annual SPAR Kirkwood Wildsfees is up on 2016, according to Wildsfees director Jenni Honsbein.
Once all the offsite ticket sales have been tallied the number of visitors over the three days is expected to be 7% up on 2016, when around 42 000 people visited the festival.
“Despite the economic challenges in the region, families save up to come to the Wildsfees to forget their cares for a day or three.
“What’s more the message is getting out nationally, and this year we attracted visitors from as far as Cape Town,” she says.
The festival started on Friday with the sale of a record 55 buffalo and 50 Cape Mountain Zebra at the annual Kirkwood Wildsfees game auction.
All 50 of the Cape Mountain Zebra from the Mountain Zebra Park were sold, at an average of R20 000 a head, according to auctioneer Brandon Leer.
Turnover at the sale was R7,5 million – which, according to Leer, was “exceptional”.
A percentage of the turnover from the sale also goes to the Kirkwood Wildsfees, which uses the funds to uplift the local community.
The remainder goes to the Park Development Fund, which supports the expansion of parks to increase the area under protection, according to SANParks regional communications manager Fayroush Ludick.
A portion of any surplus generated by the Wildsfees itself is also invested back into the community and into promoting tourism in the Sundays River Valley.
“The Wildsfees is owned by a non-profit company and is truly part of the Sundays River Valley community,” says Honsbein.
No serious incidents were reported.
“Once again the South African Police Services and our own security teams worked closely together to ensure that the Wildsfees was crime-free, apart from one or two incidents of petty crime,” says Honsbein.