Oamaru is about to undergo its annual metamorphosis.
Banners flying from poles along lower Thames St proclaim the imminent arrival of the Victorian Heritage Celebrations.
From November 16 to 20, the town will celebrate its colonial heyday with oldfashioned entertainments and people promenading in period costume.
Tourism Waitaki event coordinator Brooke Kofoed said accommodation was filling quickly, the Brydone Hotel reporting all its rooms were booked for the Saturday. Two small tour groups were staying there, but the rest were arriving for the heritage celebrations.
About 60 activities will be on offer during the five days, most tailored to the 2016 theme of ‘‘Medicine in the Victorian Era’’. They vary from free-of-charge family-friendly outings such as the Saturday street parade to the formal Victorian Ball.
Mrs Kofoed said tickets were selling steadily to most events, but the ‘‘Murder Mystery Dinner — Calling Doctor Death’’, to be held at the Brydone on the Saturday night, had already sold out. She urged people to secure their tickets to avoid missing out on their favourite selections from the programme.
The headline act, ‘‘Two Comedians and a Hypnotist’’, stars North Island comedian, magician and hypnotist Guy Cater. He has performed in 13 countries over the past quartercentury, priding himself on never belittling those he hypnotises. His act is perfectly suited to the celebrations — the Victorians loved such amusements, and laughter is the best medicine.
The curtainraiser features Victorian magician Uncle George and tightrope walker Johnathon Acorn, a double act guaranteed to have the audience doubling up with mirth. The show, on the Friday night in the Loan & Merc, costs $30 for all three performers.
The Forrester Gallery’s Art and Anatomy ‘‘wonderlab’’ is hosting two speakers from the University of Otago: curator Chris Smith, leading a whirlwind tour of the W.D. Trotter Anatomy Museum, and ‘‘burlesque brain’’ teaching lab manager, inventor Fieke Neuman. Admission is free.
Meanwhile, the Oamaru Opera House’s foyer is being converted into a dispensary, purveying cures for hunger, thirst and fatigue.
Other local institutions are open for tours of their innards, giving a new level of access to both outoftown visitors and the district’s residents. There are also bus, train and walking excursions taking participants to intriguing destinations such as railway workshops and cemeteries.
Those who want to dress in Victorian costumes have an astonishing array to choose from at the Victorian Wardrobe in Harbour St. Mrs Kofoed said the Oamaru iSite staff had already hired their outfits, so they could greet everyone in style during the celebrations.