Double blow for Winter Fest

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Two star attractions have been canned from Queenstown’s biggest winter party.

This year’s Winter Festival has lost the long-time favourite Top Bloke competition and a new spectacle, the inflatable “snow dome” party headquarters, due to funding and time restraints.

Top Bloke, the week-long contest to find the best local male, is being pulled despite being in its 20th year.

Organiser Ann Mann from Mannmade Events says she learned in January that main sponsor Lindauer wines was no longer backing the event.

Hoping to create an extra-special show for its 20th year, Mann didn’t want to do things by halves so she and Winter Festival organiser Simon Green decided to pull the pin this year – they intend to put on an even better Top Bloke in 2012.

“It needs a pretty supportive sponsor to pull it all together and it wasn’t to be at such short notice,” she says.

“We thought the space of a year would give us the opportunity to redirect the show and really do something quite big for it for next year’s Winter Festival.”

Mann’s upset about dropping the iconic event.

“I know there will be disappointed people out there,” she adds.

Meanwhile, the dazzling inflatable “snow dome” venue imported from China won’t make it in time. Instead, the Memorial Hall will be “transformed into something people have never seen before” to become party-central, Green says.

“Financially, with the hall being available, it didn’t make sense to recreate a whole venue that will effectively be the same size as the hall,” he says.

Green’s also been held up by not getting vital technical information from China as part of the consent process and needed to press ahead with a definite venue as the fest draws closer.

The sci-fi-looking dome, which holds 350 people, is the latest in inflatable venue technology, allowing light to shine out through the walls and the roof. Owned exclusively by Winter Festival, it’ll eventually be available for hire at other events throughout the country.

Events to be staged at the Memorial Hall “ice box” are the June 24 opening party, Masquerade Ball, Comedy Gala, Late Night Laughs, mountain safety avalanche awareness seminar and Ladies’ Fashion Challenge.

The popular Mardi Gras street parade, which was pulled suddenly last year, will be going ahead this year, Green adds.