Countdown to Winter Festival wonderland

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A new team is bringing you this year’s Winter Festival in Queenstown – but old community favourites remain on the programme. 

Organisers have released a provisional line-up – 100 days out from festival’s June 21 kick-off – and it contains staples like opening night fireworks, a float parade, the icy Birdman leap into Lake Wakatipu and Undy 500 race on Queenstown Bay. 

The Village Green will once again be turned into an ice rink during the 10-day festival while sell-out amateur boxing night Thriller in the Chiller – pitting local against local – returns for the fourth year running. 

Festival boss Lisa Buckingham, who took over from long-serving director Simon Green last year, says the programme is staying true to festival’s roots and includes lots of local favourites: “We’ve taken the opportunity to listen to the community and get a feel for what they want the festival to be.” 

The festival ball and separate jazz night – dropped last year – aren’t in the provisional programme but Buckingham says further announcements will be made soon on other events. 

Last year’s Ladies Challenge which takes local women on a 12-week fitness, diet and fashion makeover won’t be happening this year but the intention is to consider bringing it back in 2014, she says. 

“There were some challenges in terms of stakeholders and constraints there – we’ve taken a look at the budget and are working within constraints. Also it doesn’t hurt to look at an event afresh. 

“You will see a good solid programme – with a few additions to come,” she says. 

Meanwhile, new festival marketing boss Katy Medlock started two weeks ago – the 26-year-old returned to New Zealand after a 12-month stint in England as Tourism New Zealand’s public relations officer for Europe. 

She’s no stranger to Queenstown, having visited regularly at weekends during studies at Otago University.