Why does South Africa Splashy?

What is Splashy Festival and why are people so in love with it?

Splashy Fen, lovingly known as ‘South Africa’s friendliest festival’, has been bringing epic tunes and whimsical vibes to festival goers since way back in 1990- making it the oldest running music festival in the country. The setting couldn’t be more perfect- dams, long winding rivers and rolling hills filled with wild flowers, all nestled under a truly majestic mountain range in the heart of Underberg.

Splashy is known for creating many repeat offenders. Once you’ve experienced the magic of Splashy, you just want to keep coming back for more. Like a magnet it draws you in every Easter weekend with the promise of having one of the best long weekend of your life. This year was my fourth Splashy Fen and yet again it truly delivered. But what I really wanted to find out is how Splashy appeals to such a variety of people and what that special something is, that keeps people of all ages, races and creeds coming back for more every year. I wanted to answer the question of: “why do you Splashy?”

Lisa & GavinCouple at Splashy

Lisa and Gavin are a pretty special pair as they were the first ever couple to get married at the Splashy chapel last year. Gavin is also part of the Gus Brown band who frequent the Splashy stages. The couple said that they’d had a great first year of marriage and had been looking forward to returning to the place they had exchanged vows, with them celebrating their 1st wedding anniversary in good ol’ Splashy style- with beers and dancing. Lisa so eloquently said that besides their anniversary celebrations, Splashy will keep drawing them back as it’s a place where they can totally relax and be themselves amongst the ever accepting Splashy Fenners.

Kiara

Kiara, who goes by the stage name of Bella de le Metrix, is only 18 but has been coming to Splashy with her family since she was 14. I actually met Bella at her first Splashy and it’s been amazing watching her grow up and getting to catch up with her every year. She’s a talented fire dancer and performs fire poi in the fire circle each night with a flair and style that turns heads.

When I asked Bella to tell me her favourite thing about Splashy, she had this to say: “No one judges. Everyone is so positive and we all want the same thing- to relax…and party!”

Andrew & Noel

I was really impressed with this young duo when I came across them at the River Stage on Saturday afternoon. You may be wondering why they are dressed like Lego people and that’s because they were entrants in Splashy’s Splashion Show, where first prize is a trip to the Seychelles. Andrew and Noel made their outfits themselves and made it to the top 10 where they modeled their handiwork on the Splashion Show runway.

Andrew and Noel said they couldn’t wait to see the headline act Bowling for Soup that evening. It was Noel’s first ever Splashy and she emphasized how surprised and taken aback she was by how friendly everyone was and that they’d definitely be back next year and attempt to win the Splashion Show once again.

Sam

Sam makes little girls’ fairy dreams come true as she twirls and dances around the festival grounds in mystical outfits with her iridescent fairy wings, which she’s never shy to lend to little ones who want to feel the magic of being a fairy themselves. Sam also teaches a belly dancing workshop every morning that she executes with purpose and passion. She really is something.

Sam has been dancing for 8 years but tired of dancing at corporate functions and decided to bring her talents to festivals- where they have been readily appreciated. This year was only Sam’s second Splashy and when I asked just why is it that she Splashies, she said that what she loves most about it is connecting and interacting with the other dancers and flow performers. “Splashy is the one time that we all get to meet up and share our passion for performing. The crowd at Splashy is always really receptive and appreciative. On top of the- that art is epic, the music is epic and the development of the Treehouse stage (that features flow arts and acoustic tunes) has been really exciting to see”.

Sisanda

Sisanda is a charismatic lady that I met at Splashy, down by the river, this year. Her days were spent with a mixture of partying, enjoying herself while watching bands and bartending. She was shifted at a different bar each day so got to see a wide variety of music and people. She is new to the festival scene and admitted that camping had been an exciting challenge, but she was managing and it was totally worth it for the opportunity to interact with people from so many different cultures and relax in nature.

Her favourite band? Desmond and the Tutus. I couldn’t agree more. They were steamy!

James

James is a true Splashy legend and definitely one of my most interesting interviews. James is kind of hard to miss, with his floor length dreads, intricate tattoos and colourful outfits. I have seen him around at many festivals in KZN but had never had a real chat with him until this year, and it was humbling.

James has been to a massive total of 28 Splashy Fens, with his first one being the second official Splashy Fen in 1991. He was part of the crew that initiated the iconic tee-pee village that overlooks the beautiful winding river and has a good vibes only policy. He sees the people of Splashy as his extended family and has been bringing his own son Willow, and wife Nicole to Splashy for the past 13 years. James commended Stu Berry, the event organizer, on ‘bringing back the real thing’ over the last few years. Some of James’s most loved things about Splashy are the colourful flow arts performers, the acoustic stage, the treehouse stage, the fact that there is something for everyone…and the view, of course.

Debbie

Debbie, 51, is actually my mother. And let me tell you, she’s not really the festival type. Although she loves the outdoors, she’s pretty straight laced and not a big party animal. Anyway I convinced my mom, and my younger sister to join me at Splashy this year and my mom actually ended up loving it.

She went with the glamping option in the Harambee hotel, that provides waterproof tents, proper beds with warm bedding, buffet breakfast and flushing toilets. It’s a little comfier than just pitching your own tent and fending for yourself. My mom said that she’d definitely be back. She loved watching Mango Groove, who she used to listen to in her teens. My good ol’ mom even braved the icy waters of the running river to go tubing with my sister and I. Mom was impressed with the variety of food vendors and ‘had a special time in a beautiful setting with her two daughters’.

Gian

My interview process would not be complete without interviewing someone who was a little off their face. Gian was maybe even more than a little off his face while watching The Steezies at the river stage. He was having a grand time. Gian has been to 5 Splashies and when I asked him why he keeps coming back he cheekily said “because it’s so shit”. When I asked him again he said it that it feels like he’s going on holiday to his own house and that everything about it rocks. More seriously he said that he couldn’t believe that a festival with 7000 had practically no fights and everyone just got along.

Splashy 2018 was one to remember. The weather was for the most part lovely and mild with just a few thunder showers to keep things interesting- it is called Splashy for a reason. The organization was great, the facilities were well maintained and I can only give my utmost respect to all the staff involved. Thank you for bringing us some top-notch bands, groovy tunes, incredible art, workshops and classes every morning and most of all providing us with a space to interact, create and express ourselves. See all you amazing people next year!