Glad I’m not this Kennedy


Winter Festival simply wouldn’t happen without a dedicated team of organisers sweating blood behind the scenes. 

There’s never a shortage of workers and volunteers stepping forward to ensure Queenstown’s biggest party goes with a bang. Winter Festival veterans share their thoughts on days gone by: 

David Kennedy

Access All Areas
Ngai Tahu Tourism’s southern region boss insists he’s “proud” to be known as the resort’s most prolific drag race competitor, having first entered the event 19 years ago. Kennedy was also Winter Festival director in 1991 and 1992. 

Memory Lane

“I think I’ve done 11 drag races and it’s probably the thing I’m best known for around town,” Kennedy says.
“At one stage, when I was the chief executive of Destination Queenstown, I thought it might not be a good look to be seen running around dressed in women’s clothes, but I was told by the staff to get
over it and get back into the spirit.” 

Kennedy has only won once in his many attempts, but advises entrants to hang back before making a charge for the finishing line. 

“It gets a bit aggressive at the front of the field and there’s a lot of ankle tapping and shoulder barging going on. The year I won, I was at the rear for most of the race – then everyone else fell over in a mass pile-up near the end and I just leapt over the top of them.”

Peter Doyle

Access All Areas
The longtime Queenstowner hatched the idea for the festival over a beer with former Eichardt’s Tavern publican Laurie Wilde – Doyle’s been involved in various capacities most years since it started in 1975. 

Memory Lane
“The festival was conceived really to get people who were here for the ski season downtown and also to get locals involved in something during the winter. 

“In the early days we kind of made it all up as we went along, and I could never have imagined it would turn into the kind of international event it is today.”

Emma Pullar

Access all areas
The singer with popular local group The Lynch Mob has been the festival’s night events manager off and on since 2004. Her family band is also a regular fixture and will blast out Pink Floyd classics at this year’s opening party. 

Memory Lane
“Since I started I’ve only missed two festivals – and that’s only because I was having babies. 

“A few years ago I got my brother Tom involved in the production side of things and he’ll be doing it this time around too, so we’ll be organising things backstage as well as performing out front.”

John and Ann Mann

Access All Areas
This couple have been running the Top Bloke contest since it began 19 years ago and also started the iconic Old Farts Ball plus various wearable art competitions. 

Memory Lane
“The idea for Top Bloke came from my wife Ann,”
John says. “The Memorial Hall wasn’t really being
used for anything during the festival back then and
the council asked if we could put something on that involved the locals. 

“It’s hard going competing in Top Bloke but the contestants always have great fun and now we get people from all over the world who are working in Queenstown taking part.”

Mark Burdon

Access All Areas
THE Dalefield farmer has been musterer and
coordinator of the festival’s longest-running event, the Dog Derby, for more years than he can remember.
Memory Lane
“The Dog Derby was started by the late Des Gavin to give the local farming community a presence at the festival,” Burdon says. “But it’s hard enough trying to control animals in a one-on-one situation, never mind having them out mixing with the public and other dogs. “One year a local farmer had to hire a helicopter to find his dog after it vanished into the hills during the derby. I once lost my own dog at Coronet Peak for three days under similar  circumstances.”

Clive Geddes

Access All Areas
The Queenstown Lakes District mayor threw himself straight into the first festival in 1975 just a few weeks after arriving in Queenstown from Canterbury. He’s been involved in some capacity ever since. 

Memory Lane
“In the early days I remember we had things like rollerskaters doing wheelbarrow racing in The Mall, and eventually we had events like cow-chip throwing contests in lower Beach Street, which made quite a mess,” Geddes says. 

“When the festival first started, the population of the Wakatipu was somewhere between 5000-6000 and very few people from overseas came here for the ski season. 

“So it is amazing to see the way the event has grown and developed in recent times,”
he adds.