Heritage milieu feels like being in fairytale

South African friends Elsa Du Toit (left) and Cornel Van Basten love taking part in the Oamaru...
South African friends Elsa Du Toit (left) and Cornel Van Basten love taking part in the Oamaru Victorian Heritage Celebrations year after year. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE
Growing up in South Africa, Elsa Du Toit and Cornel Van Basten always dreamed of living in a fairytale.

In Oamaru, they get to live out their fantasy year after year, getting dolled up as part of the annual Oamaru Victorian Heritage Celebrations.

While this year’s official event was cancelled, the two friends still made the best of what was on offer, taking part in informal lunches, picnics, walks through the Victorian Precinct and the Wild Haggis Otago Preservation Society Heritage Ball on Friday.

Dr Du Toit even dressed as a "Scottish bloke" to be Mrs Van Basten’s dance partner as their husbands did not enjoy dancing.

The pair met in 1996 while working together in South Africa. Dr Du Toit’s family moved to New Zealand in 2014, and Mrs Van Basten’s arrived a year later.

They both lived in various parts of the North Island before settling in Oamaru.

Back home they never experienced anything quite like the Oamaru festivities and jumped at the chance to immerse themselves in the culture.

"We look forward to this for the whole year. I think I’m always loving fairytales — I’ve always loved all of the romantic period and the old-fashioned ways," Dr Du Toit said.

Together Dr Du Toit and Mrs Van Basten owned a range of Victorian-style garments, and loved the yesteryear and Queen Victoria eras.

Mrs Van Basten said she loved watching movies rich in history and to feel part of those times for a few days was special.

"I just love the cultural aspect and the energy. I just hope the town never loses it," Mrs Van Basten said.

They never missed the heritage celebrations and loved the grand parade, queen’s teas, shows, and the Victorian Fete.

"We take the full weekend — we go to everything," Dr Du Toit said.

The creative outlet was somewhat different from their day-to-day lives — Dr Du Toit worked as a health and safety environment officer for six dairy farms and as an energy broker. Mrs Van Basten was Network Waitaki’s regulatory manager.

It made time together and celebrating heritage all the more interesting, they said.

While it was disappointing this year’s full celebrations were cancelled due to Covid-19, Mrs Van Basten said it was wonderful some events still went ahead.

"We’re so thankful that we can."



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