Henley comes out to party

By Sunday afternoon of the Wine, Art and Music Festival weekend on 7-8 September, Henley on Klip reminded me of a fat cat contentedly basking in the sun.

The village was buzzing in a gentle, tranquil way; more cars on the roads, but certainly no traffic jams. There were undoubtedly some visitors from outside – I met a few – but most of those filling the tables at the WAM venues seem to have been Henleyites coming out from behind their high walls to catch up with old friends.

A soothing libation from the bottles on the various wine farm tables didn’t hurt. For those who wanted the taste without the kick, non-alcoholic wines were on offer at the Windmill – where cheese platters flew off the tables – and the About Time coffee shop, which specialised in cakes.

Henley is not yet at its spring best, but the recent shower of rain settled the dust and sprinkled the lawns and bare branches with green. At least the fruit trees were out in pink glory.

At Duck’s, the tall trees shadowed the paving and there was a tantalising golden glimpse of the lawns by the river where groups of picnickers had settled with their baskets. The weekend kicked off here on Friday night when Rotary hosted a dinner and piano recital.

There was more riotous entertainment down the road at O’Connor Hall, where the HPA – Henley Performing Arts – raised the laughter level with their skit on wine-tasting and led a fun quiz that had the audience guessing frantically.

Saturday dawned chilly and grey, but it didn’t seem to deter the steady stream of visitors to the Hound where two wine farms were established, plus a bevy of local artists and the Balls ‘n All book sale. The system of having tickets on sale at all the venues worked well – for R120 an armband and wineglass entitled the bearer to visit and taste at all nine venues, many within walking distance. Some Henleyites probably discovered venues they hadn’t known existed.

The weather cleared during the day, but by then the Hound was decidedly cheerful. Around the corner the TRC was cosy and convivial with the wines complemented by a cheese table and plenty of art. By Sunday morning the four artists from the Art Farm stationed at Montagues had sold 10 paintings; which was not surprising as I fell in love with several.

Music came to the fore again that evening at the AOG Hall where approximately 160 gathered to enjoy the brassy and jazzy sounds of the WR Jazz and Rock Orchestra. Many were already well-fuelled, but there was wine and snacks if anyone needed to top up. It was an enjoyable live concert with excellent musicians and something for everyone – including the constant irritating murmur of conversation! Some of audience would have been happier planted at the watering holes.

Night life for Henley, even on a Saturday night, is usually fairly mild, but with a spring party at the Bowler to add to the mix, the party went on under the stars at all the venues. 1904 was still buzzing long past its usual closing time.

Perhaps that was why the turnout at Fraser Park the next morning was disappointing. Twelve or so classic cars turned up, highly polished and in trim, and a sprinkling of dogs were happy to greet and gambol, but generally Henley stayed at home.

Still, it was an entertaining weekend, a time to chat and socialise and sip wine under the sun. Without a doubt, it was good for Henley and its people. All those I spoke to, wine vendors and others, agreed it had been a good experience. A preliminary total released by the Lions showed a decent profit; enough to top up a few of the local community projects.

Thanks to all the organisers and workers. WAM is becoming a highlight of Henley on Klip’s social calendar.

For more Henley Hoopoe news see www.henley-on-klip.co.za