The great Geon Art Deco Weekend has turned into the multimillion-dollar weekend.
Leading Hawke's Bay economist Sean Bevin carried out an economic survey into the benefits of the Deco shindig, coupled with the smaller mid-year Deco Decanted, back in 2003 and the additional economic activity generated then was found to be about $5 million.
"It would have risen since then but it is hard to put an accurate figure on it - but along with the Mission Concert weekend it is a very key event, for the city and the economy," Mr Bevin said.
The weekend was a mix of community celebration, civic pride and economic development for the region. Like the Mission Weekend, it was down to the visitors bringing "new money" to the region which benefited the entire service industry.
He said the growing cruise-ship industry had also been a factor - more so this weekend, with two big liners calling at Napier.
"It is a repeat thing - they come here once and many will decide to come back again."
Art Deco Trust board chairman Peter Ball said the event would bring up to 30,000 visitors into the city and generate "a large proportion" of the $23 million that Deco activities contribute to the region every year.
The big weekend also had law-enforcement benefits, with one police officer saying the feelgood factor, and the number of people in town, traditionally saw a marked drop in call-outs.
More tickets to this year's 200 events had sold than in previous years, leading to the Art Deco Trust expecting a record turn-out as things sprang into life yesterday under warm, blue skies.
By noon, the inner-city streets were a blaze of colour and sound.
Bagpipers played on one corner, while keyboard and guitarists played on another.
The city was close to fully booked out, Napier Moteliers Association president Clinton Green said.
"Bookings have been very high," he said, adding it appeared most hotels and motels would have the "no vacancy" signs up for the next week.
"We've got Art Deco happening, then there is the cricket international with England on Wednesday, and then we are into the Mission weekend."
Mr Green said the association had worked in with Hawke's Bay Tourism, the Art Deco Trust and the Napier i-Site Centre to help ensure visitors for the big weekend had a roof over their heads.
At the i-Site Centre just after 10.15am yesterday, the queues at the gift shop counter stretched to about 30 people.
Outside, about 1800 visitors poured into the city from the cruise-ship Sea Princess to join the already packed central streets and waterfront.
"Wonderful chaos," was how one of the busy Art Deco Trust volunteer guides put it.
Ujazi cafe manager Philippa Reid said every day of the Deco weekend was "flat out" and outside January 1, when many other inner-city cafes were closed, it was the busiest time of the year.
"The staff go home and crash at the end of the day because they are so tired - but they're up at 7 the next morning and doing it all again."
For one of the weekend's most recognisable "front of house" ambassadors, John "Bertie" Cocking, the weekend has a familiar ring - people approaching and asking "can we have our photo taken with you?"
During the weekend he said he would end up posing for "hundreds" of photos, and when it was suggested that he featured in photo albums all over the world he laughed and said "how frightening".
Mr Cocking said one strong indicator that more overseas people were returning for the big weekend was the growing number who told him they had been here a year or two earlier outside of Art Deco Weekend, liked what they saw and wanted to return to experience it.
He had a couple approach him on Thursday with the business card he gave them 18 months earlier.
"They came back - and a lot of people are doing that from the cruise ships - and they are spending.
It's all very good for the economy," Mr Cocking said.
Traffic at times threatened to gridlock in the CBD, although today and tomorrow road closures will be in place. Police advised people travelling toward the central city to "be patient and cautious".