Thursday, June 30

Night market at Punanga Nui

Go Local!
It’s the latest catchphrase on Rarotonga; BTIB (the Business and Trade Investment Board) have been encouraging everyone to buy local food and products to help the economy.
And it’s more than just putting ads in the newspaper and on TV. Last week BTIB organised a Go Local Night Market for food vendors and stallholders to sell their wares.
It was a fabulous night in many ways. The weather was fine, the evening warm and a thousand or more people packed into Punanga Nui. (BTIB said between 3000 and 5000 but that’s a significant proportion, about a third, of the island’s population; I don’t think so.)
Nevertheless, the place was jumping and the food stalls worked overtime.
This is usually the way on big nights out for Cook Islanders. Steak and mushroom rolls, hot dogs, stir-fried chicken and crepes don’t use much in the way of home-grown ingredients but they were all prepared and cooked by locals so I suppose it counts.
The punters, tourists and locals, took advantage of what was on offer and then sat back to watch the entertainment. A dancing contest for little ones was followed by a fire dancing display and then local Nikao group Te Rau Maire put on a great display – local culture at its best.
BTIB have already said that this will be an annual event but it could well be held more often than that.
In Papeete the roulades (food caravans) set up shop every evening. Tahiti is considerably bigger than Rarotonga and has many more visitors but, if it were properly promoted, a regular monthly night market should be sustainable and in our high tourist season possibly even a weekly one.
I recall a few years ago something like this was tried, on a Friday night I think, but it was really more of a suggestion that people should come along and sell food rather than a real promotion and it sort of faded away, probably because the food vendors wanted to concentrate on the Saturday morning market.
Still, I hope we don’t have to wait a year for the next night market.