By MARK PRICE
The timing for our Aussie visitors couldn’t have been better.
Just three days after the first international flight in more than a year landed at Queenstown Airport, Arrowtown’s holding the mother of all autumn parties.
The 36th Arrowtown Autumn Festival fires up today after, like all major events last year, being forced to put the 2020 event on ice.
The town that sprang from the 1860s gold rush has turned on the colour just in time for the five-day festival — and the town’s ready to celebrate.
Festival coordinator Carole Watts says having to pull the pin on last year’s Autumn Fest was ‘‘extremely disappointing’’, but it’s back this year, bigger and better.
Included in the line-up is the ever-popular ‘‘Pie, Pint and Pinot’’ celebration, this year being held on Monday.
Locally-made gourmet pies, craft brews, including alcoholic ginger beer and, obviously, wines will take over the village’s Library Green from 12.30pm till 5pm with 1200 punters already confirmed to attend.
Watts says that’s a sell-out crowd, but chances are if those without tickets form an orderly queue at the entrance there’ll be a few who get their fill early and leave to make room for those who’ve left it a bit late to book this year.
While that’s the biggest event on the festival calendar, it’s not the only one that’s sold out.
A quiz night being held at the Athenaeum Hall tonight’s also full, as is this afternoon’s Senior Citizens’ afternoon tea.
There are, though, still tickets available for Saturday’s R18 Autumn Fest ball — this year themed as a ‘‘Roaring 20s Prohibition Party’’.
Mobsters, flappers, Peaky Blinders, Bugsy Malones, Great Gatsbys and Greta Garbos will be taking over the hall, where a ‘‘secret speakeasy bar’’ is planned, and prizes will also be dished out for the best-dressed.
Another new event’s the auction of (empty) Akarua wine barrels, seven of which have been painstakingly decorated by local artists.
They’re on display at the Lakes District Museum, as part of the annual Ray White Autumn Festival Art Exhibition, which opens at 7.30 tomorrow night.
The barrels will all be auctioned on Trade Me, opening tomorrow, with all proceeds going to the Wakatipu Greatest Needs Fund.
The town’s expected to be full to the brim on Saturday afternoon during the main festival day.
Included in the entertainment will be performances by the NZ Veterans Brass Band, a vintage car display and the annual street parade, which will start at 2pm.
For those who still have gas in the tank by Sunday, the Tobin’s Rush will be held for the first time, after which the inaugural King and Queen of the Hill will be crowned.
Watts says entrants will run from Wilcox Green to the top of Tobin’s Track and back down again, with electronic time-tracking.
If sprinting uphill isn’t palatable, there’s also the Arrow River Dash, a ‘‘bridge to bridge run’’ along the Millennium Track, starting at Wilcox Green and finishing with a slippery slide.
Watts, who’s helped by a 10-strong committee and 80 vollies, says everything’s been running smoothly in the lead-up to today’s official opening, happening at noon.
‘‘We try to create an atmosphere where just about everyone is involved some way in the festival and are therefore vested in it.’’
Arrowtown Autumn Festival, Thursday till Monday, Arrowtown. For more info and the full programme visit www.arrowtownautumnfestival.co.nz
Some programme highlights …
1pm-5pm: Autumn Long Lunch, Akarua Wines and Kitchen
6.15pm: Outdoor Movie (Shrek), Buckingham Green
7.30pm: Arrowtown Autumn Festival Exhibition Opening and Awards Night, Lakes District Museum
8.30am-10am: Vintage Car Display, Buckingham Street
10am-4pm: Market Day, Ramshaw Lane
2pm: Festival Parade, Buckingham St
3pm: New Zealand Gold Panning Champs, Butler’s Green
7pm: The Roaring 20s Prohibition Party, Athenaeum Hall
10.30am: Arrowtown RSA Anzac Service, Athenaeum Hall
12.30pm-5pm: Pie, Pint and Pinot, Library Green
1pm: Shotover Country Music Club Concert, Buckingham Green