Queenstown’s in fest-o-rama mode

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Queenstown, get your party hats on – a second full-on festival of fun has been locked in for winter. 

Organisers of the Winter Games in August have unveiled details of a jam-packed programme of off-piste events to follow hot on the heels of the annual Winter Festival – starting later this month. 

The international South Island snow sports tournament will be studded with at least a dozen top attractions in the Wakatipu, from August 12 to 27. 

Big-ticket items include a huge Events Centre opening concert with an international act, an adventure sports expo, the hugely-popular Rail Jam, a rock and roll concert, film festival, beer festival and awards ceremonies on the Village Green. 

“If you took the sport programme away, we’ve still got quite a big event,” Games boss Arthur Klap says. 

The inaugural Games were held two years ago but this is the first time it’s included a full off-snow programme. 

Labelled The Downtown Sessions, the festival also has events in Dunedin, Methven and Wanaka – Wanaka hosts the closing bash, with Kiwi band The Black Seeds, on August 28. 

“Last time we focused on the sport side but this time it’s really important for us to try to build a strong community connection and presence downtown and engage with businesses,” Klap says. 

“If we stay just a straight winter sports event, it will always stay more or less the same size. 

“If the Games are to become a real special event for the South Island and Queenstown, we need to pull in the person who wants to come just for the joy of being here and being entertained and look at some of the competition.” 

With the programme in place, Klap is aiming to attract 2000 North Islanders and 1700 Aussies to the Games, in addition to 1300 athletes and team personnel. 

“Our target is 3700 across the different places with 2500 in Queenstown.” 

Klap says his festival marketing budget is about $500,000. 

“We’re working closely with Destination Queenstown. 

“You’ve got a [Queenstown Winter] festival at the start that entertains, and one later on. 

“They complement each other and have different objectives but they’re both still aimed at getting people into the town.” 

Unlike Winter Festival, Klap says many of his events will be owned and managed by local businesses. 

“We assist with the marketing and promotion.” 

Event manager Malcolm Blakey says he’s also encouraging local bars and nightclubs to bring acts into town, 

“We’re trying to build a whole fringe festival where the venues put on events that we promote, so there’s plenty of things for people to do and quite a mix of musical tastes.” 

Just weeks after the Winter Games there’ll also be several festival-style events in Queenstown in association with the Rugby World Cup. 

Details will be revealed next month.