Gurney gets amongst Winter Festival

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Kiwi adventure sports legend Steve Gurney is a surprise Queenstown Winter Festival entrant – and embracing it with his usual gusto. 

The nine-time Speight’s Coast to Coast winner will be in Queens­town during the resort’s biggest party and he’s decided to compete in classic free events, including the Birdman, Suitcase Race down Coronet Peak and Undy 500 running race along Queenstown Bay. 

Gurney says he’s brainstorming something wacky for the More FM Birdman, which sees contestants try to impress judges with their performance and ‘flying machine’ before plunging off a makeshift pier into freezing Lake Wakatipu. 

Plus he’s “incorrigibly innovating” to squeeze whatever mechanical advantage he can into the suitcase race. 

“Winter Festival is, as far I can see, all about fun and participation and not so much about winning,” he says. 

“But when you have testicles you can’t help yourself. When the gun goes a switch goes off in your brain that tells you you’ve got to win at all costs – and in the snow, the costs can be high,” he laughs. 

“I’ve always wanted to enter Winter Festival events but I’ve always had other stuff on, so I’m excited to be taking part. I’ve always found Queenstowners keen to give fun stuff a go, so I’m expecting to be lining up with heaps of others.” 

Festival director Lisa Buckingham says she’s thrilled Gurney’s taking part. 

“It’s great to see someone well-known like Steve who’s charismatic and drawn to adventure enter. These events are made for him. 

“Hopefully it’ll encourage others to enter.” 

The Jelly Bean Undy 500 and Birdman are part of Day on the Bay on June 23. 

Undy-goers can enter on the day. The first male and female winners get $150. The Auckland Airport Suitcase Race on June 29 can also be entered on the day. 

Birdman entrants – both business teams and individuals – must register weeks prior on June 12. Prizes include comedy gala tickets, $500 cash and vouchers from Pub on Wharf and Winnies plus advertising. 

Also free are the downtown Street Parade and Family Fun Day at Earnslaw Park on June 22, plus new Community Carnival at Earnslaw Park on June 30. 

Buckingham says the Community Carnival is a “twist on the traditional Mardi Gras” and includes street performances and food celebrating the cultures in Queenstown. 

“One of the misconceptions about the American Express Queenstown Winter Festival is you need to buy tickets and people worrying about events selling out,” she adds. 

“There’s twice as many free events as there are ticketed ones. It’s a community festival and we want to get as many people involved as possible.”