Queenstown’s WinterFest has gone to the dogs


The American Express Queenstown Winter Festival has gone to the dogs – literally.
Farmers and townies with their trusty four-legged friends took to the slopes of Coronet Peak yesterday for festival’s chaotic annual Speight’s Dog Derby. 

It involves a race down the ski field and attracted 46 entries – local farmer Leo Hamilton, 22, with Cook (pictured, top) of Mt Nicholas Station won the country section. 

Southlanders Matt Watson with Kay and Jeremy Heinz with his dog Ben from Waikaia were second and third.
Local Dak Ingry and Zora won the ‘townies’ section just pipping Sam Grigg and Phoebe and Hilton Scott with Rizila who took second and third. 

Festival manager Lisa Buckingham says despite long days on the farm as a result of the still snowy conditions in many parts of rural Southland and Otago, there was a good turnout. 

“The Speight’s Dog Derby always provides a lot of laughs and barks, and it was great to see the local farmers and their dogs taking time out to enjoy the American Express Queenstown Winter Festival.” 

Dogs and their masters then made their way downtown to Earnslaw Park for the Speight’s Dog Barking competition, vying for the title of Loudest Bark – human or canine. The crowd laughed and cheered as each of the 46 dogs took to the podium for their X Factor moment of glory. 

Some poor pooches suffered from stage fright and owners had to step in for their dogs – such as Tom Falconer who stood in for Tye and took out the prize for Best Human Bark. 

The champion was a crooning Bruno, best friend of farmer Michael Cooney (above, left), from Wairoa. 

Bruno took to the hay bale stage just as the Queenstown Volunteer Fire Brigade siren rang out and chose to harmonise with a winsome howl rather than a classical bark and was immediately the crowd favourite.
Best Dressed Dog was Chris Thorne’s Mila modelling a doggie Swandri. 

Other festival events 

Last night an overwhelmingly female audience laughed and talked all things fashion, femme and fitness with motivational speaker and style guru Lisa O’Neill (above) at the Millennium Hotel. 

The first performance of Steve Martin’s hilarious and moving play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, was met with applause by a 130-strong audience. The show runs each night at 8pm until Saturday at the Queenstown International Airport Departure Lounge and a limited number of tickets are still available. 

Festival highlights today include the Speight’s Dodgeball Championship at Earnslaw Park, where 32 teams are fighting it out to be champions of the court with national selectors looking on. 

Tonight skiers and boarders can for the first time this season take to the slopes for the Corona Coronet Peak Night Skiing. George FM’s Dan Aux will be on the mixing desk for the night. 

The final festival après-ski party – Thank George it’s Friday – kicks off at new venue The Find down Shotover Street, featuring George FM DJs Kirsteen MacKenzie, Dan Aux and DJ Nick D. 

Festival organisers say those attending tonight’s drive-in movies at the Remarkables Park Red Barn need to ensure they have a band expander for their car radio as the movies will be tuned to 107FM.

Eight Below starts at 6pm and Cool Runnings is from 9pm.

CLICK HERE for Winter Festival info