Vivacious volunteer

All hands on deck: Lee Gray volunteering at WinterFest's Masquerade En Blanc ball in 2015, with Janey Rae, left, and Melita Gizilis

A local veteran volunteer is back for his fourth helping of Queenstown Winter Festival.

Lee Gray got his first taste of volunteering for the festival in 2012.

He says it’s the people he works with that keep him coming back for more.

“They treat you really well, you know you’re appreciated and it’s a real good environment that they create.”

Originally from over the hill, the Hawea-ite has had his fair share of white winter seasons.

So the Kiwibank consultant thought he’d give something other than skiing a go during winter, to fill in a few cold days.

That’s where the festival came in.

“I could just live in Queenstown and not do this but it’s nice to give back for a change.”

Gray’s been familiar with volunteering from a young age and was put to work at about 12 years old – at the Hawea Picnic Races, an event his family’s long been involved with.

He’s since helped out at about 17 race days.

Gray, who’s been been in the resort since 2009, sees the festival squeeze from 10 to four days as a positive.

“I think it’s a good change and it’s probably going to get a bit more involvement from the locals.

“It gives a sort of new oomph into it [the festival].”

He reckons it may even draw more Aussies over the ditch allowing them to plan an action-packed extended weekend.

Winter Festival coincides with National Volunteers Week which runs from June 18 to 24.

Fortunately, Kiwibank allows its staffers one paid day off a year for volunteer work – Gray will be using his day on the Friday of the festival and plans to work through the weekend.

Anyone keen to get involved, head to the festival’s website and sign up before June 12.

If you know any community volunteers who deserve some kudos, applications for the Real Journeys Thank You Cruise are open until June 1 and can also be found on the festival’s website.

Queenstown Winter Festival runs from June 22 to 25.