Whether you eat a smiley (roasted sheep’s head), participate in the local marathon or simply admire the kaleidoscope of wild flowers, a visit to the Calvinia Meat Festival offers unique epicurean opportunities and a small town experience second to none.

Did you know?

The Calvinia Museum exhibits a stuffed sheep which ran wild for several years and sported a fleece so long the beast could hardly walk.

Calvinia is a tiny 19th century Northern Cape town at the foot of the Hantam mountains within the Hantam Karoo wool producing district of the Upper Karoo. The term ‘hantam' means "mountain where the red bulbs grow" in the indigenous Khoi language and the region is chiefly known for its mass of wild flowers in spring.

The Hantam Vleisfees (Afrikaans for Hantam meat festival, sometimes also known as the Calvinia meat festival) is a delicious annual event which takes place in the last week of August and is timed to coincide with the annual flower displays.

Calvinia is set in the heart of sheep country, and the Hantam meat festival is a veritable orgy of lamb chops, stews, curries, kebabs and braaivleis (barbeque). Brave souls can try a smiley (a roasted lamb's head) so called because as it roasts the lips retract to expose a smiling set of teeth.

Even braver types can try a docked lamb's tail known as skaapstertjies. These tiny offerings are cooked wool and all, the skin is peeled off and the meat is sucked from the bone. They have about as much meat as a very small lamb chop and it takes about 10 tails to make a decent sized snack.

Don't miss the kaiings, crumbs of fat: rendered until crisp, the ultimate fat-lover's treat and the peertjies (testicles). No visit to Calvinia is complete without a meal at the multi award winning Hantamhuis which serves traditional Afrikaans style meals and specialises in the use of indigenous ingredients.

Less meaty moments are also on offer with music, marathons, vintage car rallies and the Miss Vleisfees beauty pageant.

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