WinterFest: What’s in, what’s out


Eight Queenstown Winter Festival events have been cut in this year’s shortened shindig.

Mountain Scene can reveal the Drag Race, Street Parade, Mountain Mayhem, Comedy Debate, Downtown Day, Frisbee Golf Doubles Winter Wind Up, Golden Mile and Slopestyle have been chopped.

The parade, which featured floats, has been replaced with a walking parade and parts of Mountain Mayhem will be grafted on to night skiing.

Festival boss Lisa Buckingham says the festival’s steering group made the decision after surveys, local and visitor feedback was taken, and looking at participation.

“There was a lot to get into that four-day package,” she says.

“Unfortunately there were some events that just couldn’t quite get there.”

She assures it isn’t about cutting the budget, despite the festival losing its naming sponsor, American Express, after nine years and the fact there’s no replacement.

Buckingham thinks the Drag Race and Street Parade, both of which have been around since the early 1990s, will be the most surprising cut for festival-goers to get their heads around.

Drag Race commentator Brendan Quill says the risque event was “getting a bit long in the tooth” but he thought it added a bit of extra colour.

Buckingham says the Drag Race’s participation dropped off significantly in the past few years.

She reckons potentially one of the bars could decide to pick up the Drag Race.

Meanwhile, the parade had lots of community group involvement but businesses weren’t getting behind it as much.

Scene exclusively revealed last June that the festival would be squeezed from 10 days to four.

Until now, WinterFest bosses have been tight-lipped on what was in or out.

Fortunately the two oldest events, the Dog Derby and Hospitality Race, make it for another year.

Buckingham doesn’t claim she’s going to get it right in 2017.

“We will be constantly evolving this festival for years to come.”

Some events that made it this year might not be back for 2018 and vice versa, she says.

New to this year’s festival is a cultural opening – targeted at the locals on the first day, June 22.

The Community Carnival has been tweaked – it will now run from 12pm to 9pm rather than starting at 4.30pm.

Also this year an Apres Ski Bar and Dining Programme has been added.

Local bars and restaurants can pitch their own ideas to be included – although the deadline is tomorrow.

Community groups can submit their ideas online, which will determine if events like Stars On Ice and Winter in the Wakatipu return.

The Queenstown Winter Festival runs from June 22 to 25 – tickets go on sale May 8.