Popping your cherry in the Free State
The Free State has got to be one of my favourite places to go for a weekend. It’s close enough to Jo’burg and Durban to head out for a weekend away and there’s a huge selection of small towns worth stopping in for the farm produce alone.
Just four hours by car from Johannesburg lies Ficksburg. Once a year, this town comes alive with visitors and locals from all over the province who make their into the town centre for the Ficksburg Cherry Festival.
This festival is less about the food and more about the family fun. It’s held just after the annual cherry picking begins for local farmers and gives the town a chance to kick back and just enjoy the cherries, the mampoer (strong local liqueur) and some traditional food while the kids are entertained by stuntmen on bikes and country fair-style thrill rides.
I can’t lie, after tasting at least 20 varieties of mampoer, liqueur and cherry brandy, I was in a pretty festive mood, leaving the festival with six bottles of the local poison and 6kgs of cherries. My friends were of course very grateful when I arrived home with this collection to dole out amongst them.
Although not the foodie experience one may expect from a cherry festival, Ficksburg certainly does offer a full day of entertainment for the family and will give you the chance to mingle with the locals, check out old cars, view local artists’ work and enjoy some sinful greasy food in the sunshine!
The activities and displays are reminiscent of an old-country carnival with cherry pip spitting competitions, local farm tours, small traders peddling their souvenirs and a local strong man competition for young men to strut their eligibility in front of the visiting ladies.
For first-timers, the walk from the car park can be pretty far so wear comfy shoes, pack light and expect to be carrying a few boxes of fresh produce out.
The festival has ATM’s, plenty of seating and a wide variety of live entertainment so remember to check the festival website before you go to plan your day out on the town.