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QLDC fights Scrooge tag with $100,000 Summerdaze.

Queenstown’s about to play host to the biggest and longest locals party.

Summerdaze – an annual month-long festival aimed at celebrating community spirit – will kick off on New Year’s Eve.

In its sixth year, the Queenstown Lakes District Council-led festival has grown from humble beginnings – 10 events with a budget of about $45,000 – to a packed calendar of more than 30 events costing $100,000.

QLDC boss Duncan Field says the idea behind Summerdaze came from the community demanding more free activities over the festive season – a time when the resort’s full of visitors.

“The whole Summerdaze thing was put in place because of some publicity about us being scrooge-like, you know, bah humbug.

“Summerdaze is really an event where we try to focus on locals and give them some celebration over Christmas.”

QLDC ropes in local businesses to sponsor events so costs are kept down.

The $100,000 budget includes a website with event details, $40,000 on New Year’s Eve celebrations for Queenstown and Wanaka, plus “the stars on the trees and all that sort of stuff as well”, says Field.

Queenstown welcomes 2009 with a free party at Earnslaw Park and Marine Parade – Kiwi rock/roots reggae band dDub will play before the fireworks.

QLDC arts and events boss Jan Maxwell says other free events like Tunes on Tuesday (January 6 and 27), community barbecues and the Teddy Bears’ Picnic (January 31) are great ways of getting locals out meeting other locals.

“It’s that community spirit, I suppose, getting that back into the community.

“We all get so busy I think we forget to take the time to stop and chat or catch up with people. I hope Summerdaze is a time for people to do that.”