Festival ‘fantastic’: manager


Given the weather, the snow and attendance at more than 50 events, Queenstown Winter Festival manager Lisa Buckingham declares this year’s event “fantastic”.

For the most part, the 10 day celebration of winter has had the perfect combination of snow on the mountains and clear roads downtown.

That is apart from ice closing the state highway and disrupting flights on Friday and strong winds playing havoc on skifields yesterday afternoon.

Festival manager Lisa Buckingham says: “It’s been fantastic. It’s the 41st festival – we came out of a 40th anniversary and we really wanted to make sure that we kept the momentum going and I think we’ve really achieved that.”

Buckingham says a great addition this year had been the Sony Mobile Evening Sessions, which provided after work entertainment at Earnslaw Park and became a “hub” of activity.

Personal highlights? “I thought the opening party and fireworks were particularly good. The fireworks display was fantastic.”

Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ann Lockhart says the festival adds a huge commercial kick to the start of winter.

The festival attracts tens of thousands of people each year and injects an estimated $55 million to the local economy.

Buckingham says it’s hard to gauge how many people attended events because so many are free. The ticketed events had strong numbers.

“It’s fair to say we were on a par with the previous festival and in some circumstances entries have been up in some of the events – we had double the Birdman entries on last year.”

Before planning for the next festival, for which a firm date has not been set, there are several months of sorting out the financials, surveys and debriefings.

Most of the key sponsors, including headline sponsor American Express, are on multi-year contracts.

Yesterday, $16,000 was raised by the charity fundraiser Queenstown Pure NRG duck race, in which 40 plastic ducks floated down Horne Creek, in central Queenstown. The corporate winner was Naylor Love and best dressed duck was David Reid Homes.

On Saturday, multisport legend Steve Gurney, of Queenstown, came out of retirement to win the suitcase race at Coronet Peak.

His ride was a $10 purchase from the Salvation Army shop.

”It does take a bit of prep. I polished it. The second place getter, I know he ski waxed his.”

Gurney, a nine-time Coast to Coast champion, shredded his “Turbo the Snail” suit in the final, and appeared to suffer a painful hamstring injury but still limped down the mountain to sign up for the Dash For Cash.

“I had to have quite a few coffees to get a snail up to speed.

“I had to sneak past the cafe, they were going to make escargo out of me.”

Hamish Garrick (18), of Queenstown won the men’s Dash for Cash race, local endurance mountain bike racer Erin Greene (32) won the women’s race and Queenstown Resort College chief executive Charlie Phillips won the veterans’ title.

Otago Daily Times