Winter in Queenstown has officially kicked off with a 12,000-strong party at the resort waterfront.
A line-up of local acts and packed crowd turned out for the Winter Festival opening night at Earnslaw Park before a stunning fireworks display at 7pm tonight (Friday).
Locals Amber Brinsdon, Elaine Sharpe and Jodi Goodwin were having a ball.
“It’s pretty good, just having a wee bit of a jam,” Brinsdon says.
“I’m liking the local line-up. It’s much more of a community feel tonight – it makes it more real.”
Local band The Fletcherz kicked things off before a smorgasbord of Queenstown musicians took to the stage.
The Queenstown Pole Studio’s new owner Raha Sangsari and fellow dancers performed a mesmerising routine to Italian opera classic Intorno All’Idol Mio sung by Denise Henkenhaf.
Scottish visitors to Queenstown Lindsay Kerrigan and Laura Travis – both 22 – say they’re really impressed by the local line-up of acts and musical talents.
“We didn’t realise it was on. It’s very good – really impressive,” Kerrigan says.
They were among more than 12,000 people who flocked to Earnslaw Park for the opening which included a stunning fireworks display at 7pm. Queenstown performers including Margaret O’Hanlon and Pearly McGrath sang a cover of Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff during the fireworks.
Queenstown mayor Vanessa van Uden declared the 10-day festival officially open, telling the crowd: “It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the biggest party since Rugby World Cup.
“I know you’re going to have a ball, and dance and sing and party and we will show the world how well we party here in Queenstown.”
Festival director Simon Green says he’s delighted with festival opening’s Queenstown flavour.
“The turnout was fantastic, everyone was having a good time and looked excited about the festival getting underway. It was also great to see our local entertainers up on the big stage to showcase the amazing calibre of talent we have in Queenstown.”
Earlier in the day the first festival event for 2012 saw local businesses hear from New Zealand tourism industry heavyweights including Bruce Parton from Air New Zealand and Kevin Bowler from Tourism New Zealand at the Gen-i Business Luncheon.
Auckland Airport chief executive Simon Moutter laid down a gauntlet to the tourism industry saying it needs to work together in a much more effective fashion.
The festival fun continues from 11am tomorrow (Saturday) with an action packed schedule of events downtown including the Auckland Airport Family Fun Day, Frontrunner Golden Mile – a 1600 metre race around a downtown circuit – then the American Express Festival Street Parade and MoreFM Birdman, a wacky event involving contestants jumping from a makeshift pier into the icy waters of Lake Wakatipu.
Meanwhile the on-mountain excitement kicks off on Coronet Peak at 11am with the Mophie Mountain Bikes on Snow.