Fest delivers kaleidoscope of fun


Noise, colour, banter, creativity and enthusiasm – this year’s Queenstown Winter Festival opening weekend had it all.

Participants in yesterday’s Birdman competition made a splash as folk braved the cold waters of Lake Wakatipu.

Ten teams took part including local businesses Shotover Jet, Erik’s Fish & Chips and SkyCity Queenstown Casino.

Shotover Jet opted for a romantic theme, with staff members Grace Lindsay and Hamish Grant strutting their stuff to the Dirty Dancing theme tune [I’ve Had] The Time of My Life before taking the plunge.

Lindsay told the Otago Daily Times it was “great fun”.

The pair practised the routine over a “few wines” but she says nothing could have prepared them for how cold the water was.

Their efforts paid off as they picked up the title for best corporate entry.

Queenstown council’s staff adopted a topical theme – traffic, demonstrated by camper van, car and traffic light costumes.

A team from Darfield High School, Canterbury, was named overall winner.

The four year 13 teenagers dressed up as sheep and a shepherd. Regan Cornelissen says they were surprised to win.

“It was really good fun. The water was freezing but we toughed it out.”

Festivities then moved to Queenstown Bay beach for the Undy 500 race where competitors stripped to their undergarments to complete an assault course. 

Englishman Chris Donnelly won the men’s event.

The 26-year-old, who has been living in Queenstown for 18 months, says he tried to stay in shallow water to outsprint his fellow contestants.

Crossing the finish line, he says it felt great to win despite having what he described as a very bad hangover.

First across the finish line in the women’s race was 40-year-old Kylea Gough, from Invercargill.

She has watched from the sidelines in previous years but after a prompt from her husband decided to give it a go.

“It’s amazing and I didn’t think I would win. I just went like the clappers.”

Up next was the Raft Race, a new event for the 2016 festival, held in conjunction with Coastguard Queenstown.

Shotover Jet got a double whammy, taking home first place.

Skipper Donald Boyer, a jet boat driver, says the raft was an example of Kiwi ingenuity and the team were delighted to win, something he put down to a joint effort.

The Winter Festival team secured last place and needed a nudge from the Coastguard boat to help them towards shore.

Events on Saturday included the Golden Mile race and the Festival Street Parade which attracted hundreds of people to the town centre.

Floats of all shapes and sizes took part, made up of community groups and local businesses.

Local ice hockey team Stampede took on West Auckland Admirals on Saturday and Sunday evening, winning 7-0 and 6-1.

Coach Adam Blanchette, who also took part in Saturday’s Street Parade, says it was a good weekend of hockey.

Festival director Lisa Buckingham described the weekend programme as a huge success.

Otago Daily Times