By MATTHEW MCKEW and HUGH COLLINS
Uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic’s forced the Real Journeys Queenstown Winter Festival 2020 to be cancelled.
The festival, in its 46th year, was to have been held between June 18 and 21, but it’s the latest event to be nixed by the pandemic.
In a Destination Queenstown update, interim boss Ann Lockhart says it’s the “pragmatic approach” but a difficult and disappointing decision.
“We did consider postponing the festival, but it would be almost impossible to pick a date which we could confidently confirm.
“I want to thank [new festival boss] Harald [Ulriksen] and his team for all the work that has been undertaken to date.
“We expect the festival will be back bigger and brighter in 2021.”
The festival dates back to humble beginnings in 1975, when it initially began as a celebration for locals during the quiet times.
It’s since evolved into an integral part of the Queenstown events calendar, drawing in more than 57,000 revellers in 2019.
Ulriksen tells Mountain Scene while the situation’s unfortunate, his team is going to come back bigger and better next year – they’re even looking to run some events this spring to help reinvigorate the town.
“It’s disappointing, but we’re all facing a very large situation here with Covid -19 and I think it’s the right approach that the [DQ] board has taken.
“But, the show always goes on, so we will get it back on in 2021.
“The bigger picture is, really, where we’re at and the safety of all of our potential visitors and our staff.
“My thoughts go out to everyone that’s affected by the current pandemic.
“That’s top of mind for everyone.”
Winter Games NZ boss Marty Toomey, though, is running his event as planned, from August 21, to September 5, at this stage.
Toomey tells Scene his team’s going to ride out the lockdown and then make a call.
“We’re planning all contingencies … we’re looking at all different options.
“But, we’re definitely still planning as if we’re going ahead.”
Meantime, Winter Pride is now “on hold”.
Director Martin King says things “will have to look very different” to go ahead with Queenstown’s 2020 event, scheduled to begin at the end of August.
He’s considering, however, a domestic-only festival.