Birdman freezing but fun – Ferg


Broadcaster and Queenstown Lakes District councillor Craig ‘Ferg’ Ferguson still remembers his crack at Winter Festival’s zany Birdman. 

The veteran local radio man entered the festival staple – which involves an icy plunge into a freezing Lake Wakatipu – back in 1990. 

Ferg and then-local Chico’s bar and restaurant chef Scotty Gibsone rode a decorated tandem mountain bike off the Steamer Wharf. Chico’s owner Grant ‘Spud’ Murphy gave them a hand with the push-off to ensure they got enough speed. 

“We spent all day mocking up the bike and putting these things on the back wheels so [Gibsone] could stand on them. I was on the seat and he was on the back like he was at the back end of a plane,” Ferg recalls. 

“We got a little bit of air, not much, we just made it over the ramp. The bike’s still at the bottom of the lake to tell you the truth. We never pulled it out. 

“Having only been in town about a year at that point it was my first foray in to the lake and I had the realisation ‘Yes, the lake is cold’.” 

Ferg will be watching the Hits 90.4 Birdman – this year on Sunday, June 22 – from the relative comfort of the shore, where he’ll be acting as MC. 

Ferg says he hopes to see plenty of creativity and thought go into the pre-plunge routines: “It would be great to see more creativity come into Birdman as opposed to people just jumping off – see some effort into how they can be creative and entertain the crowd.”
Thousands traditionally turn out to see the contraptions and entrants who must perform a skit before leaping from a makeshift pier. 

Great prizes are on offer – the winning corporate entry gets $1500 worth of advertising from The Radio Network while the overall winner gets $500 cash, two double passes for a cruise on party boat the Luanda and four American Express Comedy Debate tickets for that same night. 

Individuals or corporate teams of four maximum can enter. Entrants must be 18 and over and be able to swim at least 30 metres. 

Entries close 5pm, June 17. 

American Express Winter Festival entries still remain open for the street parade on the first Saturday of the 10-day winter celebration on June 21. 

The theme for this year’s floats – in honour of festival’s 40th – is ‘40 years – step back in time’ and festival bosses are encouraging businesses to theme their floats with old memorabilia, uniforms and branding.