The biggest party in Africa… and a tribute to a legendary party-maker

Have Cape Town’s First Thursdays become the biggest monthly party on the African continent?  On the First Thursday of every month, shops in Cape Town’s CBD stay open till 9pm and the city is taken over by partygoers.  Peak-hour traffic starts at 5pm into the city; pavements are jam-packed, traffic regulations are bent and there is a festive spirit second to none.

Cape Town First Thursdays
Sidewalks are thronged with people enjoying Cape Town’s CBD

It’s all about people taking ownership of the city and just enjoying it… and the hospitality industry, shops, the weird and the whacko just make the most of it.

Cape Town First Thursdays
It’s non-stop entertainment along the sidewalks.
Cape Town First Thursdays
A boat parked… or is that moored… on the central median for an impromptu party provides a viewing point and a place to be viewed.
Cape Town First Thursdays
Or above the crowd in a room with a view…

In 1990 — the year the ANC and others were unbanned and the road to freedom  seemed to be opening up — I read a story describing Spain’s changes when dictatorship ended and wondered if Cape Town would follow a similar route.

Locals then were still scoffing that the Waterfront would be a six-month wonder and that the big dreams would come to nothing.

Freedom, and the end of conservatism and authoritarian rule, does change people.

Cities are for people!

One unusual — for government — office to stay open on First Thursdays is Alan Winde’s Ministry for Economic Opportunities.  It’s not in an ivory tower but rather behind a shopfront on Long Street.

And it was here, appropriately on a First Thursday, that Alan recognised two stalwarts of South African tourism — Hylton & Janis Ross.  There can’t be anyone who isn’t aware of the Hylton Ross tour buses — the company they started in 1980 — when few people took tourism seriously.  For many people though, they were the faces behind the Overseas Visitors Club which they also ran.

Alan Winde, Claus Tworeck, Hylton and Janis Ross
From right: Alan Winde, Claus Tworeck, Hylton and Janis Ross
Hylton Ross
Hylton Ross and his award

It was a joyous occasion! Hylton’s infectious passion is still there.  There were jokes about how Hylton was responsible for the spirit (= parties) of the companies while Janis did all the hard work.

Together they represent what is best in the tourism industry – the fun, the professionalism and the passion for people.

So a special thank you to Claus Tworeck (who bought Hylton Ross Tours and subsequently sold it to Cullinan Holdings when he focused on City Sightseeing) and Mandi Jarman for organising this.

The snacks were far better than Alan usually provides!  Beezus concurs.

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