If anyone should know a thing or two about the ongoing success of Arrowtown’s Autumn Festival – it’s Reg McTaggart.
The veteran entertainer and sound engineer has worked at every event since it began 26 years ago.
The Arrowtowner became the only person to be awarded life membership of the nine-day festival – kicking off this weekend – when he clocked up quarter-of-a-century last April.
“In the past there have been a few rumblings about trying to change things, but part of the event’s popularity is that it has stayed true to its origins,” McTaggart, 65, says.
“It started out as a festival for locals, by locals, and although there’s been a lot more sponsorship in recent times, the format is pretty much as it has always been.”
Up to 10,000 people are expected to converge on Arrowtown for the big opening day on Saturday, for a feast of live entertainment and the annual street parade.
“The Saturday crowd has almost doubled down the years and it’s now a huge day out,” McTaggart says.
“In the early days, we had sheep racing down the street at lunchtime and an open truck that had a hillbilly band playing on it surrounded by chickens and guinea pigs.
“I also remember there was once a sponge-baking contest in which someone entered a cake topped with shaving foam instead of cream.
“These days, health regulations wouldn’t allow anything like that.”
McTaggart will put in 60 hours-plus this year as a festival soundman.
He is also president of the Shotover Country Music Club that’s staging various concerts, including a night with top country performer Roger Tibbs on Wednesday.