Queenstown Winter Festival opening a locals-only zone

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An avalanche of Queenstown musical talent kicks off this year’s Winter Festival.

Festival organisers have packed the opening night party bill with top Wakatipu acts after a record turnout in 2011 – even though late snow and the Chilean ash cloud kept overseas visitors away last year. 

Festival director Simon Green says: “It was still the biggest opening crowd party we’ve seen in the last decade. 

“We estimated about 15,000 people along the waterfront and people were also parked all over Queenstown Hill watching the fireworks. 

“It was all about locals. The whole festival is built around celebrating Queenstown, so this sets the right tone. It’s about Queenstowners celebrating Queens­­­towners.” 

The line-up includes powerhouse bands Mojo, LA Social Club and The Master Blasters plus super solo singers Pearly McGrath and Charlotte Graf. Talented Holly Arrowsmith, who won Queenstown’s Songstars songwriting competition last week, will perform her winning original number Wolves and Moons.
 
In all, there’ll be 14 acts including a spellbinding routine by Queenstown Pole Studio dancers to an operatic classic. 

Green says: “We’ve got an amazing collection of local talent but the pool of audience they usually get to perform to is often relatively small. So this is about introducing them to a local audience on a grand scale to show just how good the local talent is.” 

Opening night co-organiser Margaret O’Hanlon says it wasn’t hard to fill the spots and she had people grumbling at missing out. 

“Queenstown has for so long struggled to show it’s a cultural destination as well as an adventure one – and now we’re finally.” 

Mojo close the show with a half-hour set and band frontman Shay Muddle says they’ll be sprinkling it with plenty of Kiwi favourites including tracks from Ladi 6, Tiki Taane and The Dukes. 

“We’re very excited. It’ll be a privilege for us to finish.” 

Winter Festival’s full opening night line-up is: Shaun Vining, Calico, Sam Hillman, Freefall, Holly Arrowsmith, Queenstown Pole Studio, Charlotte Graf, Pearly McGrath, London Calling cast, Master Blasters, Sequin Sisters, Rebeca Barnes, LA Social Cluband Mojo.