With defying circus arts, remarkable story-telling, and local talent on the cards, the final countdown to the third annual Harcourts Hawke's Bay Arts Festival has begun.
Spread over 13 days, the festival is promising a spectacular showcase of theatre, music, dance, cabaret, circus, comedy, children's shows, and an extensive readers and writers programme.
With just three days before curtains up, it's all go at the Havelock North Village Green as the finishing touches are made to the Pacific Crystal Palace Spiegeltent and surrounding area.
Its construction was well ahead of schedule, festival director Pitsch Leiser said yesterday.
"It's really beautiful to see it in the new context of the Village Green, and how it's nestled itself in."
The Spiegeltent was expected to be well-completed by Sunday, with performers and crew starting to arrive on Monday from as far afield as Switzerland, Canada, Ireland and Australia.
Alongside the national and international talent, Mr Leiser said he was proud to provide a platform for local actors, musicians, writers, directors and producers to showcase their work - such as homegrown musical talent Thomas Oliver.
"There's been a focus on featuring content with strong local connections. It's putting the Hawke's Bay back into the Harcourts Hawke's Bay Arts Festival."
Hot ticket items for 2017 include the breathtaking Driftwood by Australia's Casus Circus, and Australian cabaret queen Yana Alana. Some of the headline shows have already sold out, including all six performances of the 2015 festival sensation Back of the Bus.
Mr Leiser encouraged people to get their tickets early, as they were likely to be disappointed if they left it to the last minute.
"Every year we have people calling the festival office desperate to get tickets for shows that have already sold out."
His other advice to audiences was to push their boundaries, and try something outside their comfort zone.
"One of the reasons we do this, is to present work that's a little out of the box, work that you normally wouldn't get the opportunity to see in Hawke's Bay."
While the majority of the 70-plus events will be housed in the Pacific Crystal Palace, it is just one of eight venues around the region staging performances for this year's arts festival, with others including the MTG Century Theatre, Napier Cathedral, Wairoa's Gaiety Theatre, and The Blyth Performing Arts Centre at Iona College.
With the Spiegeltent's hospitality area opening at least an hour before every show, Mr Leiser said people were welcome to enjoy the festival atmosphere, regardless of whether they had tickets.
As well as providing nearly a fortnight of entertainment, the festival also brings an end of winter economic boost for the region - more than 1000 tickets were bought outside of Hawke's Bay for the 2016 festival, and this year more than 100 flights and 300 bed nights have been booked with local accommodation providers, to house visiting artists and crew throughout the festival.
• Tickets for all shows are available from hbaf.co.nz or any of the i-SITEs in Hawke's Bay.