Even the weather played its part.
After two years of planning, Arrowtown 150 organisers were
holding their breath late last week as heavy rain and winds
continued to threaten their parade.
However, Saturday dawned calm and warm - and the relief was
visible on organiser Julie Hughes' face, along with
stallholders at the Arrowtown Market and the thousands of
people who had come to enjoy the beginning of the town's
The New Zealand Army Band impressed those gathered near the
Library Green with its renditions of some classic songs - and
some hot hits - before the throngs moved to the flood banks
of the Arrow River to watch 1862 unfold before their eyes.
From the moment "Jack Tewa" meandered along the Arrow River
before jumping for joy at finding gold and sprinting off into
the distance, the crowd was captivated by the re-enactment,
played out by more than 120 residents, including the
Buckingham Belles, the Arrow Miners Band, horses, carts and
The army band then led the crowd along the river to Butler's
Green for the official opening ceremony - complete with a
Chinese Lion and Dragon dance, the latter performed by the
Chinese Dragon Dancers, of Dunedin.
Present were Chinese Consul-general Madam Xiutian Tan,
Vice-consul-general Madam Yanli Chu, Consul Madam Xiaoyan
Chen and Vice-consul Mr Baoming "Jimmy" Xie.
Queenstown Lakes Mayor Vanessa van Uden said the pioneers of
1862 wanted to create a place for future generations.
"I'm sure they would be absolutely delighted to see how many
of you have turned out ... all of you are going to be a great
part of history, too.
"[Children], you will look back in years to come and show
your family videos and pictures of how you marked the 150th
anniversary of gold.
"When you grow old and they put you in a chair, you can tell
your great-grandchildren: 'I was there'."
Ms van Uden paid particular tribute to the Chinese gold
miners who stayed in Arrowtown long after those who "lived on
chance and rumour" left for the West Coast to further their
"When they moved out of town, everything could have gone
"It could have become a ghost town.
"Some special miners kept the town alive. All were clever
enough to know there was still gold to be found ... those
people came from a place as culturally removed from New
Zealand as is possible.
"They came from China [and] they stayed here until their work
Madam Chen told the crowd it was important to honour the
past, but even more important "to carry on the pioneering
spirit and work together for an even better future".
"As Consul-general, I can assure you my colleagues and I will
do the best we can to support those efforts.
"Let's start now."
After 16,000 firecrackers were set off in a two-minute
display - a Chinese tradition to ward off evil spirits - the
Chinese Village Theatre bought the historic miners' homes and
stores to life.
As the curtain came down on the theatre, the predicted rain
arrived, but was not enough to dampen the spirits of those
dressed to the nines at The Gold Ball in Athenaeum Hall.