Queenstown’s Winter Festival kicks off

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Queenstown’s Winter Festival – heralding the arrival of the snow season – has kicked off with a bang.

Fireworks lit up the sky above Queenstown Bay just after 7pm, signaling the beginning of a 10-day snow party in the resort. 

Prime Minister John Key – also the Tourism Minister – announced the festival officially open to the thousands of locals and visitors packed into Earnslaw Park downtown. 

Winter Festival boss Simon Green told assembled guests once the party starts it will not stop. 

“There’s an old line that during Winter Festival every day is like a Friday.

“What a great way to declare Queenstown open for winter. Town’s absolutely buzzing, we’ve got lots of snow and there’s a real party atmosphere.”

The Festival fun continues tomorrow on Saturday with the Festival Parade and Family Fun Day. 

That night is the Snow Sports NZ awards acknowledging the cream of the country’s snow sports athletes, coaches and volunteers plus the Moulin Rouge-themed Lindauer Masquerade Ball.

Big crowds are expected at Sunday’s Day on the Bay in downtown Queenstown which is renowned for wacky costumes and crazy antics.

The Sunday action kicks off at noon with brave Birdman contestants leaping into an icy Lake Wakatipu, followed by jetsprints, the Splash for Cash and Undy 500 beach race.