Not all thought rink was n-ice
Many viewed the Village Green ice rink as a Winter Festival 2011 highlight – but not everyone. Festival director Simon Green borrowed the idea from father-in-law Tony Butson who’d seen something similar during winter at Times Square, New York. The $140,000 rink was supported by scaffolding over Horne Creek. Green promoted it to inject a winter wonderland feel to downtown Queenstown. Critics said the public shouldn’t be shut out of a downtown public space and it would affect patronage of the privately-owned Gardens rink. Green responded: “We’ve worked with the owners of Queenstown Ice Arena to offer promotional opportunities in an effort to use the profile of the Village Green rink to direct skaters to their rink.” Green backed off keeping the rink going for three weeks afterwards for school holidays.
Winter wonders and weather blunders
Parts of Winter Festival have always been – obviously – weather dependent. However, a dramatic snow dump meant the 2007 festival was an organisational nightmare. Just about every event scheduled for the first three days was either cancelled or postponed because the airport was closed and roads were impassable. Cancelled events included the opening party and the street parade. Among those unfazed was technician liaison, the late Glenn ‘Scooter’ Reid. Reid put up opening party stage lighting, then took it down before being told to put it back up – and then finally took it down again when the final cancellation order was given. Despite facing a loss of revenue, festival director Simon Green said safety was the prime consideration – cancelling opening night was to avoid people trying to drive in on treacherous roads. However, he blasted out-of-town media for misleadingly reporting the whole festival had either been canned or postponed. Last year, it failed to snow early enough and some on-mountain festival events had to be canned.
Suitcase Race hat-trick
Queenstowner Ingrid Thomas (right) won the Suitcase Race in 2004, 2005 and 2006. “I had a special weapon,” she recalls. “It wasn’t illegal, it was specifically waxed and quite solid so it didn’t collapse when you landed on it.” Thomas also used a long run-up and a big dive. “You really don’t have a lot of directional ability so you kind of have to aim well at the start.” She made a comeback last year: “They’d completely changed the course and I lost to a woman wearing a plastic bum.”
Bring back the beer fest
The beer fest with its drinking games and oompah band used to be a festival staple. Director Simon Green says the last in 2004 is one of his funnier memories – a punter stood on a trestle table, took a bow, bounced along a row of 15 tables, used the last as a diving board to do a somersault and fell flat on his back. Then-husband and wife TV newsreaders Simon Dallow and Ali Mau (right) attended 2003’s event – Dallow was hit by a flying hotdog and beer-filled condom. The beer fest “started going down the road where it was just very hard to manage but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s something that can never come back,” Green says.
A street parade has been a popular part of the Winter Festival Mardi Gras since the early 2000s. A new event in 2003 was the Illumination Street Parade of brightly-lit lanterns created by schoolchildren, the general public and community groups such as Queenstown Family Violence & Rape Crisis. Oamaru’s Donna Demente brought giant hand-made translucent masks to it for several years. Demente held mask-making workshops on the weekend before Mardi Gras to encourage people to get involved. The popular mask and lantern parade didn’t take place in 2010. Director Simon Green said funding was “unexpectedly denied” at a late stage. The street parade component was reinstated last year.
Jelly wrestling drama
For anyone recalling the 1991 festival it’s a case of ‘thanks for the mammaries’. Then-Queenstown mayor David Bradford received extensive media coverage, including a mention in England’s satirical Private Eye magazine, for his hands-on judging of the jelly wrestling competition. As flash bulbs popped he judged the merits of one contestant by touching her bare breasts. At the time Bradford went to some efforts to stop any photos appearing. Mountain Scene decided not to run the photos but did a story headlined ‘Mayor boobs’. In the following week’s edition, Bradford – in a right of reply – accused Mountain Scene of taking the event out of context and sensationalising “a trivial moment”.
Remember Amber Kinnaird (right) making a splash in her wings and white bikini at the 2009 Birdman competition?
Kinnaird and her local Hush Spa colleagues presented daring, eye-catching routines for four years in a row before taking a break from Birdman last year. This year they’re retaking the plunge. “We’ve got two brunettes and two blondes and it’s going to be more risque than two years ago, and sexy, playful and quite witty as well,” beautician Jen Hodgson – who’ll be one of the blondes – says.