If you’ve never been to the Free State, perhaps it’s a good idea to fuel up and hit the road for the 38th annual Bieliemielie Festival. Bieliemielie, what?! Literally translated, that’s an Afrikaans word for a giant corn cob – and yes, contrary to popular belief, some of the friendliest “ooms” and “tannies” can be found in the centre of South Africa.
Take the town of Reitz, for example, where the Bieliemielie will be held from Thursday, 14 to Sunday, 17 February 2019. It has one of the largest maize silos in the southern hemisphere. Most city kids don’t even notice it when they enter rural towns, but a silo is a giant structure used for storing grain. It’s literally where food is stored until it is distributed or processed, and also increases the storage life of grains.
Besides being the bread basket of a hungry nation – where fields of maize, sunflowers and wheat stretch for kilometres towards mysterious horizons – the people of the Free State also know how to throw a lekker party!
Without a doubt, the Bieliemielie festival will live up to all your expectations.
1. The very best of Afrikaans entertainment
Listen, you don’t need to speak a word of Afrikaans to appreciate a catchy melody. Top artists, including Idols winner Elvis Blue, Lianie May, Jay, Dewald Wasserfall and Jo Black, are scheduled to perform.
Other festival highlights include shows by André the Hilarious Hypnotist, who’s been on stage for 26 years as Mzansi’s own convener of the weird and wonderful. If being hypnotized is not quite your thing, you can look forward to performances by singer and cabaret star Amanda Strydom, and Dowwe Dolla and Wicus van der Merwe’s laugh-a-minute show.
Many other great artists are on the line-up. Click here for the complete programme and associated ticket prices.
2. Put on your thinking cap
If you’re keen on finding solutions to some of the country’s most pressing issues, why not attend the VKB Food For Mzansi panel discussion on Friday, 15 February 2019. TV presenter and co-founder of the Farmers4Change movement, Ivor Price, will lead a two-hour discussion on agriculture’s power to create social cohesion.
His panel includes former Springbok coach Pieter de Villiers, Nico Groenewald, Head of Agribusiness for Standard Bank, local farmer Maseli Letuka, and Danie Joubert from the Riemland Study Group. The talk is going down from 11:00 to 13:00 in the Kuiertent and entry is free for all festival-goers.
Another Bieliemielie highlight is a talk by agricultural rock star Nick Serfontein, who is the chairperson of the Sernick Group.
These days the legendary farmer is part of a panel who advises Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa on land reform. He captured the nation’s attention with an open letter to Ramaphosa in which he asks him to include commercial farmers in plans for effective land reform.
Serfontein’s talk kicks off at 10:00 on Saturday, 16 February 2019, also in the Kuiertent. He will focus on the meat industry and land reform.
3. Calling all sports enthusiasts
Up to 20 000 people are expected at this year’s Bieliemielie Festival, including sports enthusiasts. Whether you’re a muscled jock, or a health food fan like Food For Mzansi’s resident dietician, Andrea du Plessis, you’ll be spoilt for choice. From golf and cricket to fishing and touch rugby, there’s lots to do and loads of cash to be won too. So pack your balls, sticks, bats and rods for these competitions.
Furthermore, this year’s Bieliemielie marathon is not only a qualifier for the Comrades, but also for the Two Oceans marathon. Athletes who previously participated in the Bieliemielie marathon know that whether you run the 5km or 10km fun run, the half marathon or the full marathon of 42km, it offers a lovely route through Reitz.
4. Brace yourself for a “lekker kuier”
Look, Afrikaans people like a good kuier… The beers and brandy and Coke will be cold, and the food delicious. That’s a promise.
While you’re there, take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the difference. Have a drink with a stranger, and leave the politics at home. The same rule applies to the rugby, unless you’re supporting the same team.
Also, do check out the festival stalls. This year the organisers promise only the best – from the food to jewellery stalls.
Other important details
- Tickets are for sale at the gate or at any VKB branch. You can get a weekender ticket for R250 (R120 for kids under 13), or buy tickets for individual days. Thursday tickets are R60, Friday and Saturday R120 (R60 for kids under 13) and Sunday is for free.
- Accommodation is scarce with just about all of the guest houses in Reitz already booked out. That’s no excuse to stay away, though. There are many other options in the neighbouring towns of Bethlehem, Frankfort and Heilbron.
- If you’re traveling from Johannesburg, the route via the N3 and R26 is the best and quickest option. It’s a two-and-a-half-hour trip, but take it easy on the road. Traffic police are everywhere.
- If you’re traveling from Bloemfontein, it’s best to take the N1 and R707. You should be there in about three hours flat.